Tier 3 has ruined our dream restaurant opening

Tier 3 has ruined our dream restaurant opening
The Chiswick restaurant is one of 14,000 hospitality businesses in the capital that will temporarily close, says commercial property advisor Altus Group.

Under tier 3 rules, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes can only serve takeaways. From Wednesday, London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, will join other parts of the country already under the highest level of restrictions.

The industry group UK Hospitality says the ban on sit-down dining means more jobs will be at risk.

"So many pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are only just clinging on by the skin of their teeth, but will be forced to take another huge hit," said the group s chief executive Kate Nicholls.

"The burden of a region being moved into tier 3 falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses. It is an illogical tactic that fails to tackle Covid effectively but does push businesses closer towards failure."

The timing of the move comes as a heavy blow for many businesses which had hoped to recoup some of the year s losses in a strong trading period in the lead up to Christmas.

image captionRik Campbell says his staff just want to be at work

Rik Campbell, the co-founder of Soho s Kricket restaurant, described London s move into tier 3 as "a disaster".

"The run up to Christmas is always important for our industry - more so than some - and obviously now that s been written off," he said.

"I think this yoyo-ing back and forth between lockdown and tiers begins to grind on everyone s morale and really, it s beginning to have its effects on both our customers and our staff."

Staff at Kricket were gradually taken off furlough during September and October, but as soon as the second lockdown was announced in November "it was back to square one," Mr Campbell said, and all the restaurant s staff were furloughed again.

"It s very frustrating. You feel like you re making steps forward and then you take 10 steps back. Staff just want to be at work."

In some parts of the country, tier 3 restrictions have already been in place for months.

Greater Manchester was put into tier 3 on 23 October, but the region has had restrictions on groups meeting indoors since July, and that s taken a huge toll on hospitality businesses.

Simon Wood, who owns a high-end restaurant in Manchester, says being closed in December is "phenomenally difficult." Although he s offering food deliveries - and that s "covering the rent" - he s had to let go about a dozen staff.

image captionSimon Wood says there s a limit to how much the restaurant industry can adapt to coronavirus restrictions

"We have adapted and adapted and adapted, there s only so much an industry can take," Mr Wood said. Staff who are on furlough are really missing the tips they would normally rely on to top up their base salary, he says.

Mr Wood also owns a restaurant in Cheltenham which is currently in tier 2, but he says government-imposed curfews have presented another challenge. He offers a 10-course tasting menu over four hours, so he can only fit in one sitting each evening. And, social distancing rules mean he can only offer customers tables of two.

"When we reopened after the first lockdown, the curfew was at 10pm. Now it s at 11pm. Either way we re losing the equivalent of 42% of our revenue," he said.

Back on London s Chiswick High Road, chef Kuldeep Mattegunta says he s not yet ready to give up on his "dream project" of launching a restaurant that serves British-Indian fusion food.

image captionOpening a restaurant is a long-held dream for chef Kuldeep Mattegunta

He and business partner Mustaq Tappewale have each spent a decade in the restaurant trade and the pair finally felt they had the courage to start out on their own.

They are hoping the flyers which had been printed and the Instagram advertising that had been bought ahead of tomorrow s planned launch, will at least make people in the neighbourhood aware the restaurant is open for deliveries.

"It s scary and it s not the ideal situation for any start up," Mr Mattegunta said. "But despite all the odds I think we all need to carry on."
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