Hospitality owners feeling both ‘excited and anxious’ about reopening after pandemic losses amount to over £40,000 each

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Pub and restaurant owners are both ‘excited and anxious’ about reopening their doors this week, welcoming some ‘normality’ but uncertain about the recovery from the pandemic.

In total, 68% of hospitality business owners have had to temporarily stop trading during the pandemic as a direct result of multiple lockdowns and restrictions. 45% have been earning less money, despite government grants, and only a quarter (27%) have been eligible for furlough.

Covid has cost pub and restaurant owners £40,000 each on average in lost earnings, according to a study of businesses in the food and drink industry by small business insurer Simply Business.

This is more than double the amount that the average small business has lost so far during Covid-19 (£15,673) – demonstrating the scale of the impact on an industry which has been particularly affected by the various lockdowns and restrictions of the past year.

What’s more, despite the reopening, owners expect losses to continue – with Covid-19 set to cost them £45,470 each in total on average.

Simply Business spoke to four UK pub and restaurant owners who have experienced prolonged closures to customers to hear their views about the reopening today. Unsurprisingly, there are mixed feelings – unease about how they will cope after such a long closure but excitement at getting their business back on track.

Emma Taylor, owner of Jack’s bar and grill in Stockport, said: “We are both excited and anxious to open today. Unlike many others we’ve had no outdoor space so this is our first opening in months. I’m worried the public will expect our staff to be back to their old selves with full confidence straight away. Naturally, it will take a couple of days for us to iron out some cracks. But I can’t wait to welcome customers through the door! Not just for the cash flow, just for some normality.”

Dobrina Nikolova, owner of Dobby’s food, a Bulgarian restaurant in Chatham, Kent, added: “I know there will be a lot of interest from customers but I’m a bit nervous about it as I’ve stayed at home for so long. I believe we naturally got out of the routine we were used to before the pandemic. We need time to get in full working mode again. But it is exciting that we finally get to open! I’m happy that I will see my staff, my customers. It is nice to start doing the thing that defines me. As a restaurant owner, I was in my establishment for 20 hours a day, 6 days a week, it is something that I give all my heart to!”

Ilja Abbattisa, owner of Taquero, a Mexican street food restaurant in Banbury, Oxfordshire, added:“I am nervous about reopening. We have plenty of customers wanting to come in but we are lacking decent staff to run the business. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get good staff. Chefs are the most difficult to find.”

Runa Ahmed, owner of Gulab Tandoori, an Indian restaurant in Pentonville, London, said: “We are very anxious about opening, we’ve made such huge losses over the last year and the uncertainty around recovery is worrying.”

Signs of optimism in hospitality businesses as a whole

Despite the difficulty, 89% of food and drink business owners overall plan to continue or restart their current business, and more than one in 10 (11%) started a new business in the last 12 months – showing the clear resilience of the hospitality industry.

Furthermore, the vaccine rollout has boosted confidence among many hospitality business owners. Three quarters (76%) say the rollout has made them more confident about the recovery of their business. Nearly two thirds (63%) also say the government’s roadmap out of lockdown has given them sufficient reassurance to plan the future of their business. Over a third (36%) remain optimistic about life after lockdown.

Business owners have also utilised the time in lockdown to spend more time with family where they can (60%), rest (37%), focus on themselves (30%) and learn new skills (20%). Over one in 10 (11%) have been able to use the pandemic to adopt new technologies into their business.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business comments: “Few have been hit harder than the hospitality industry in this last year, and the scale of the impact on small businesses and the self-employed is abundantly clear in our latest research. Covid-19 has cost pub, restaurant and cafe owners over £40,000 each on average, which is a huge collective loss to the economy.

“More importantly beyond the economic hit, we should recognise that behind each of these small businesses is a small business owner – each with families, livelihoods, and dreams. The impact of the pandemic on so many of these individuals and their communities has been devastating, both financially and emotionally.

“Against such a tough backdrop it’s inspiring to see small business owners display such resilience – and this is especially true for the hospitality sector where 89% plan to continue or restart their current business. So as hospitality owners prepare to safely reopen their doors, there are reasons to be hopeful – as the country can enjoy a well-deserved meal or drink with friends and family.”

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