Freedom day ‘does not mark easing of challenges’, trade bodies warn

UKHospitality, The British Beer and Pub Association and The British Institute of Innkeeping have all warned that the easing of restrictions does not mark an “easing of challenges” for sector businesses.

In a recent survey by the trade bodies of over 350 businesses operating tens of thousands of venues, it found that the majority of their concerns were around staffing shortages, the supply chain and tapering of government support.

Furthermore, the current “pingdemic”, as a result of the NHS Covid app, means that up to as many as a fifth of staff in the sector are isolating at any one time.

The results also found that 100% of the businesses surveyed currently have vacancies with 84% being for front-of-house, 67% in non-head chef roles and 36% kitchen porters roles.

In addition, a return to a VAT rate of 20% next year will have a further negative impact on the vast majority of businesses. Some 43% of respondents said they would “cut investment”; 30% said they would become loss-making; 28% revealed they would cut jobs, 22% stated they would implement a recruitment freeze, and 21% claimed they would face business failures.

In a joint statement, the three trade bodies said: “The easing of all legal restrictions should mark a progression into the recovery phase for our sector, which has been hardest hit during the pandemic and only now permitted to trade unrestricted and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts.

“But businesses are faced with a range of pressing challenges meaning the road to recovery will be bumpy for many months to come. The sector has already lost more than 12,000 venues during the course of the pandemic and more than half a million jobs – without further adequate support there will be more businesses and jobs lost.”

They added: “For hospitality to begin a sustainable recovery, the government must continue working closely with us in order to put in place the right trading environment, including measures such as further business rates relief into next year and the extension of the lower rate of VAT.”

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