Pubs and Restaurants scramble to create outdoor space
The UK government has allowed the reopening of al fresco dining in just three weeks’ time, on Monday April 12th. This has prompted a scramble for pubs and restaurants to create outdoor seating space, with restaurant and pub operators desperate to claw back revenues lost during lockdown.
Hospitality businesses up and down the country are planning to open terraces or expand on to pavement areas after ministers ruled that restaurants and pubs could serve customers ‘outside only’ in the first instance when they are allowed to open again on 12th April.
Last week pub company Punch said that it was investing an additional £1m in outdoor space, while landlord Cadogan, which owns large parts of Chelsea and Kensington, said that it was adding 500 seats to newly pedestrianised streets in the area. While some hospitality businesses are reporting higher demand for outdoor tables than when they reopened in July last year.
The River Cafe in London said it was almost fully booked for April with just a few weekday lunchtime slots available, while D&D, which runs 38 restaurants in London, Manchester and Leeds, said it planned to open the terraces at 20 of its sites amounting to around 1,100 places per sitting. It had already received 60,000 bookings up to the first week in May.
“We are well over double the number of bookings ahead of opening compared with when we opened last year, and last year we had the whole restaurant to book” said D&D chief executive Des Gunewardena. But, he added, the cost of reopening was in the “hundreds of thousands”.
The hospitality sector is versatile and creative, and many sites have already, or are currently erecting semi-permanent outdoor structures like awnings, canopies and marquees to cater for as many customers as possible when they finally reopen. The mood is positive and the sector should benefit from improved weather for the Spring re-openings, but all these changes come at an additional cost when the sector already has significant cashflow pressures.
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Written by Luke Harris