Hospitality 'on cliff edge' warns Tom Kerridge as he begs Chancellor for help while bookings plummet
"We're sat on a cliff edge..." Tom Kerridge told ITV News in a sobering assessment of the hospitality industry.
Chef Tom Kerridge warned the hospitality industry was "on a cliff edge" as the Omicron Covid variant caused chaos with no hint of extra financial help.
Kerridge, who was born Salisbury before moving to Gloucestershire, runs a number of restaurants including the two Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers in Marlow and Kerridge's Bar & Grill at Corinthia London.
Speaking to ITV News he spoke of the devastating consequences of Omicron and the damaging affect the variant had on public confidence.
One of Kerridge's restaurants suffered more than 650 cancellations in just six days and a 'perfect storm' meant businesses across the industry faced an anxious few weeks.
"If you think of the last 18 months where many businesses and also much smaller independent spaces have taken on bounce back loans, there has been furlough in place and a reduction in VAT but all of that has gone away now and that safety net is not there," he told ITV News.
"Then we have an increase in wages and we all know about utility bills and how they have gone up and that massively affects the market.
That crossed with 40% to 50% of bookings disappearing across the board, we are sat on a cliff edge and many places will close their doors over Christmas and won’t reopen," Kerridge added.
Kerridge posted a video on Instagram showing the number of cancellations at one of his restaurants, running into hundreds of empty tables.
He said the government was sending "mixed messages" by telling people to wear face masks in a shop but not in a crowded pub.
And he warned of the serious consequences the sharp drop in Christmas trade would have across the supply chain.
"It has a ripple effect, if your bookings are cut by 40% your orders are also cut by that so that affects agriculture, farming, fishing - the whole supply chain.
"It’s small pubs, restaurants, all of these places through to high street chains people are cancelling.
"It should be buzzing, but if there’s a workforce that is working from home it affects so many people - newsagent, coffee shop, they get their nails done and go to the gym.
"All of that is under pressure," he added.
The Prime Minister appeared to suggest on Thursday that additional support would not be provided to businesses, saying there is already help available.
"We've kept businesses going throughout the crisis with more than £400 billion worth of support," Boris Johnson said.
"We'll continue to support business with the Covid recovery loans, with business rate reductions, with VAT reductions, and the best thing we can do is make sure that we get back to normality as fast as possible by getting boosted now.
"We're offering a package and we already have measures in place, supporting businesses through business rate relief, through VAT reductions, the loans that I've described, all that is there, but what we're also saying is that we want to keep businesses going, keep businesses open, as we have done for a long time now through the vaccination programme, and the best way to get back to normality is to get boosted now," Mr Johnson added.
Tom Kerridge said he understood why people were cancelling reservations and public health was extremely important.
"Many people have got plans to meet family and friends and no one wants to be self isolating over this Christmas period and becoming ill," Kerridge said.
"But from an industry point of view this is catastrophic and devastating without any form of government support.
"The industry as a whole needs government support, 100%," he added.