The hospitality industry jumped for joy today as it was announced that indoor venues are now allowed to welcome people back through their doors. Restaurants, pubs, and bars are no longer restricted to outside-only service and can now serve their patrons without curfews, though guests do need to remain seated when eating or drinking and establishments need to enforce table service only when ordering or paying. Through lockdown, the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit. Restaurants and pubs were forced to close, staff furloughed, and many owners left uncertain about the future of their business. Almost 10,000 licensed businesses closed in 2020 as the pandemic made it impossible to stay afloat. With government support in the form of the Recovery Loan Scheme and Local Restrictions Support Grants, the hospitality sector is set for a big revival. Andrea Edwards, co-owner of The Interesting Eating Company, owns six establishments across the UK, in Kingston, Preston, Nottingham, Birmingham, and Liverpool. Edwards and her businesses have had to diversify in-order-to survive. The Interesting Eating Company provides food, puddings, and smoothies for takeaway and offers catering for private and corporate events. While she is incredibly excited and relieved that licensed premises can finally welcome customer back inside, Edwards is very aware of new challenges that restaurants and bars face. The intensity of Track and Trace is ramping up, as every single business that serves food and drinks consumed within their premises must check in every patron through the NHS COVID-19 app. Every restaurant or pub must keep a record of every customer for at least 21 days and must provide that log when requested to do so by the authorities. However, Edwards is focused on keeping her staff and customers safe. “Hospitality workers are very vulnerable to COVID-19, being in contact with countless people every day while working, so I’m very focused on keeping my staff safe. That is a top priority.” The food and restaurants industry nationwide are facing a staff shortage. Many chefs, bartenders, and waiters had to turn to other work and to other industries after the continuous lockdowns left them unable to continue working in their previous positions. Being able to find experienced chefs’ post-lockdown is proving extremely difficult, as Brexit and repeated lockdowns have driven many workers away from the sector. Many experts believe that the shortage of staff is going to drive up costs, for the owners and for the customers. In-order-to prevent key members of staff from being poached or lured away by rivals, businesses may have to increase wages and benefits. If the cost of labour goes up, then the prices for customers inevitably increase simultaneously, for owners to maintain their already tenuous profit margins. Lockdown being lifted was unfortunately, not the final hurdle for many in hospitality. The sector is still looking at a long recovery, but it is certainly a huge step forward for the English public. Alongside pubs and bars, people are allowed access to gyms, cinemas, leisure centres, and are able to once again car share.
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