26 May 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Al fresco dining – is that how the hospitality sector is going to get itself back up and running?
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Al fresco dining – is that how the hospitality sector is going to get itself back up and running?

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With 12000 licensed premises now closed since December 2019, the rot needs to stop while we have some left

In the hope that the data will support the dates, the hospitality sector is getting ready to open its doors “al fresco” – actually there won’t be any doors to open – more like gates as diners and drinkers will be outside.

Al fresco service is not easy at the best of times. For a start you are completely at the mercy of the weather so if it is cold or, worse still, wet, then it is not an attractive proposition to go out eating or drinking. The weather in the UK has been quite changeable over recent years with warm and cold weather both appearing when you least expect it. Of course we all remember the long hot summer we had in 2020 which was a great help to the eat out to help out scheme – the weather was pretty kind.

The problem with the lockdown being lifted in stages is that not every pub and restaurant is able to do al fresco. For some, they just do not have the premises so unless they can spill out into the street, that is the end of that. In London use of street space is being allowed but this will be much more difficult elsewhere. Only 43% of licensed businesses in England have outside space.

The second problem is that even where there are suitable outside areas, the logistics and economics of the exercise may just not be worthwhile. Serving outside is going to involve more staff and if social-distancing is still required this is going to take its toll of the available space and there may not be enough space to cater for a sufficient number of customers to make the job worthwhile. It is a real lottery.

But – it is a start and many companies are now gearing up in earnest for a re-start as soon as al fresco opening is permitted.

Unfortunately the pandemic has taken its toll in the hospitality industry – new data just released shows that 12000 licensed businesses have closed since December 2019 – that is 30 a day. What is more is that as soon as the re-opening phase begins it is likely that more failures will ensue.

I think we can expect to see a very mixed bag once al fresco opening starts and with all the good weather in the world we shall still be reliant on the growth of new confidence on the part of the general public – they have not spoken yet and covid-19 has not gone away.

Adrian Leopard 01-03-21

Photo Marc Babin

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