While the hospitality industry that many in the UK catering equipment supply chain relies on has moved towards operation today, with outdoor dining in England now allowed, it is only a small step along the road to reopening.
The vast majority of venues are unable to open, due to not having outdoor areas or it not being profitable to operate at such a reduced capacity, though some may still maintain takeaway or delivery services. And Covid restrictions still apply that no more than six people from two households can meet, socially distanced.
Catering equipment dealers and suppliers helping foodservice venues back to business may be waiting a bit longer for a major trading uptick, until 17 May when indoor dining is provisionally scheduled to restart in England, or 21 June when all social distancing measures are due to be dropped.
And in Wales, outdoor hospitality could start to open from 22 April, while for Scotland this could be from 26 April.
The exact figures of how much of the industry can trade from now are a little unclear though, with BBC business editor Simon Jack reporting that only two in five hospitality venues have any outdoor space.
However a recent report from researchers CGA Solutions and consultants Alix Partners specified that the two fifths figure was for licensed premises. They noted that although 41,000 or 38.2% of these sites have some sort of outdoor area, limited spaces and the cost of equipping and staffing them may make it impossible to trade profitably.
Elsewhere, UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said in a Talk Radio interview this morning: “Today is going to see probably around 30% of pubs, bars and restaurants reopening.
“Even those that can reopen, we know it’s going to just be 20% of their normal revenues. They need to get to 70% to break even, so this is going to be a loss-making business for a period of time.
“Our businesses can finally start to think about breaking even and moving back into profitability from 21 June.”
And during a Sky News interview over the weekend, she emphasised: “60% of hospitality businesses don’t have outside space at all. And for many in central London, even if they’ve got outside space, they won’t have the footfall to make it worthwhile to open.
“So we estimate that you’re only going to see about a third of the venues across the UK being able to open. Our outside space is usually about 20-30% of our normal trading area, so this is a small amount of trade we are going to be able to generate.”
UKHospitality estimates that the pandemic has cost the sector more than 600,000 jobs, 12,000 business failures and lost sales of £86bn.