Deliveroo and the bosses of major chains including Pizza Hut, Pret a Manger, Itsu and Wagamama have asked the prime minister for urgent support to prevent mass closures, as physical distancing rules threaten the future of the restaurant industry.
The food delivery firm and 90 of its partners, representing more than 1,000 restaurants across the UK, have written a letter to Boris Johnson outlining a range of measures they say are needed to weather an extended period of reduced capacity.
The signatories, including independent restaurant operators from across the UK, warn that unless additional government support is provided, “shuttered restaurants in towns and cities across the country will be a permanent reminder of the damage this pandemic has done”.
The most high profile of those calling for action include Julian Metcalfe, the founder and chief executive of Itsu, Pano Christou, the chief executive of Pret a Manger, the Wagamama boss, Emma Woods, and Pizza Hut’s general manager, Neil Manhas.
The measures include cutting the VAT on restaurant food and continuing the job retention scheme for restaurant workers while physical distancing measures remain in place, as well as subsidising the pay of staff who return to work full-time while premises cannot operate at maximum seating capacity.
“We are proud to be part of the UK’s restaurant sector, which delivers so much to the UK economy and local communities and is one of the most diverse and vibrant in the world,” said Will Shu, the founder and chief executive of Deliveroo. “That is why we are urging the government to implement this package of measures to ensure that the UK’s amazing restaurant industry survives and then thrives.”
The proposed package of measures also includes giving landlords “mortgage holidays” so that they can then temporarily drop rent for restaurant owners, and extending the moratorium on evictions until restaurants are able to operate at full capacity. Deliveroo said nearly three-quarters of its restaurant partners are concerned about being able to meet rent payments in the near future.
Other areas of proposed action include financial support to help cover the cost of restaurants becoming “Covid-secure” and a government-led social awareness campaign telling the public that restaurant food is safe to eat.
“Restaurants have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis,” said Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of the industry body UK Hospitality. “Household-name brands on every high street have been closed and many will be operating at well below capacity once lockdown ends. These businesses provide employment and are great social hubs in every region. As these proposals from Deliveroo and their partner restaurants show, restaurants need urgent support from the government.”
Deliveroo said a cut to VAT on restaurant food until distancing measures were removed was the most popular among its independent restaurant partners, with three-quarters saying it would benefit their business.
Imran Sayeed, the chief executive of German Doner Kebab, said: “Although the government has provided significant support through lockdown, more still needs to be done to protect the future of the hospitality sector. Without help some restaurants may never be able to open their doors again.”
Earlier this month, the owner of Frankie & Benny’s and Garfunkel’s said it would permanently close up to 120 restaurants with almost 3,000 job losses expected.