There cannot be many sectors looking forward - if that’s the right phrase - to the New Year with less enthusiasm than hospitality. The impending World Cup and the first “proper” Christmas for three years will inevitably shore up trading for the final run in to the festive break. Beyond that...it’s likely to be tumbleweed territory.
As our news story reports today restaurant insolvencies are already rising at a frightening rate and a major tipping point is probably getting close. There is genuine despair and anger in a sector that emerged weakened and debt ridden after Covid only to find it could not even recruit the staff it needed when the punters finally returned. Even relatively minor irritations such as the Treasury flip-flop over alcohol duties - another fallout from the mini-Budget debacle - add to the stress burden for already exhausted restaurateurs and hoteliers.
The closure of Simpson’s Tavern in the City after 265 years is a “canary in the mine” warning of the carnage that may come in the dark months ahead. The winter quarter day when the rent is due tradtionally falls on Christmas Day. Many hospitality businesses still need forbearance from landlords and some help from Government to survive. Rishi Sunak was the architect of “Eat Out to Help Out” in summer of 2021, an initiative that threw a financial lifeline to the sector - even if its wisdom has since been called into question by health experts. For restaurants it is once again time for the Prime Minister and his Chancellor to step up to the plate.