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Hospitality firms despair at slump in bookings on first day of strikes

·2-min read
Diners have cancelled bookings at normally busy restaurants due to the train and Tube strike  (Jeremy Selwyn)
Diners have cancelled bookings at normally busy restaurants due to the train and Tube strike (Jeremy Selwyn)

Furious London hospitality bosses told of their despair at the latest setback in their struggle to recover from the pandemic as today’s national rail and Tube strikes sent bookings crashing by up to 50% or more.

Des Gunewardena, chief executive of dining group D&D London, said the five days of stoppages and disruption will cost his business around £1 million in total.

“Our bookings overall for this week are down 25%, but today with both trains and Tubes on strike we are down 50%. And this is traditionally one of our strongest weeks of the year especially for corporate entertaining,” he said.

“It is incredibly insensitive for the parties involved to allow this strike to go ahead when everybody knows the damage it does to the hospitality industry — especially in central London — and the disruption it causes to ordinary people’s lives.”

Simon Thomas, executive chairman of Leicester Squares’ Hippodrome Casino, said: “First Covid, then omicron, now we’ve got the RMT variant. The West End was well on the mend and this strike threatens to push thousands of businesses back into intensive care.”

James Robson, chairman of St James’s restaurant Fallow, added: “Yes the strikes are a pain but what’s important is to sort out the workforce and fill vacant roles. There are more jobs on offer than the unemployed so we need to relax immigration to fill positions. This will generate tax revenue to support the public sector.

“If we do not do this, we are going to see mass small business closures as sites shut due mainly to lack of staff and overbearing rates costs.”

“Each day of strikes makes this worse and in our case costs us around £8,000 a day. We’ve seen around 50% of bookings cancelled this week already, and we know this will be more on the day. It’s incredibly difficult to manage staff rotas and for the team to travel in. What’s more we are going to have too much food and whilst the chefs will spend time in preserving any leftovers, it’s yet another cost we could really do without.”

Matteo Ferrio, store manager at Bishopsgate Italian-themed food complex Eataly London, said: “We sympathise with all TFL staff and workers taking action, and fully understand the reasoning for this week’s strike.

“However, for our business and for the hospitality industry facing an extremely challenging period due to staff shortages, a strike of this magnitude will impact our business heavily.

“The majority of our staff are waiters and chefs and the nature of their roles makes it impossible for them to work from home, which remains the current advice from the government.

“Despite all this, our store and restaurants, located next to Liverpool Street station will remain open all week, and we will strive to provide the best service possible to our customers that are able to operate as usual.”

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