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For all the talk of pent up demand, pubs and restaurants are struggling

·2-min read
<p>Fulham Shore owns the Franco Manca pizza chain</p> (Fulham Shore)

Fulham Shore owns the Franco Manca pizza chain

(Fulham Shore)

Franco Manca is bulletproof.

No matter what catastrophe hits the eating out market, people still flock to its cheap ’n’ cheerful pizza joints.

Despite social distancing rules and quieter towns, its owner Fulham Shore says revenues are back where they were this time in pre-pandemic 2019.

That’s encouraging, as is the sight of it pressing on with new openings on High Holborn and elsewhere.

But its ability to thrive whatever the weather makes it an unreliable barometer for the rest of the hospitality industry.

There, particularly in London, the fuller tables we’ve seen in restaurants and pubs this week belie a seriously struggling sector.

For all the talk of pent-up demand and boomtimes since the reopening, in reality, bookings for sit-down dining in the capital are only 84% of this time in 2019.

It’s not just the restaurants.

The British Beer and Pubs Association reckons this bank holiday weekend will see Brits drink 21 million fewer pints than normal, representing £80 million of lost revenue.

The BBPA blames it on social distancing and the “table service only” rule.

Around 2000 pubs haven’t even been able to open at all because they’re too small to comply.

To top it all, there are growing concerns that Boris Johnson won’t be able to ease restrictions on June 21 as the Indian Covid variant spreads.

The industry is demanding relaxation of the rules come what may.

That’s naive.

If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that letting down our guard early costs dearly in lives and revenues in the longer term. Failure to take due caution leads to stricter, longer lockdowns.

The Government must be ruled by the data, while giving as much notice as possible so businesses can plan ahead.

In the meantime, it behoves us all this sunny weekend to head out to our favourite eating and drinking spots and spend, spend spend.

With apologies to Lord Kitchener, Britons, your economy needs you.

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