City and workplace caterers have expressed frustration and called for "robust financial support" after prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed this afternoon that the public are once again advised to work from home if it is possible to do so.
Chris Mitchell, managing director of London-based contract caterer the Genuine Dining Company, said robust financial support will be needed "to make sure that we are able to maintain our teams" as its working lunch business will now take even longer to recover.
He said: "It's extremely frustrating that the narrative keeps changing. One minute the government are actively encouraging people back to work and to embrace the hospitality sector through the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the next we are being told the complete opposite. I would have through that, with the scientific resource the government has available, they would have been able to predict virus numbers are going to increase and could have come up with a more consistent narrative and plan."
He added: "We have no ability to forecast where our business will be in the next three to six months and without this visibility it is near on impossible for our clients or us to plan for the future. With this in mind it's going to be very hard for our sector to navigate through these turbulent times."
Ian Thomas, chief executive of catering firm Bartlett Mitchell, urged the government to communicate "what mechanism they plan to put in place to ensure that the sector is supported during this critical period".
Meanwhile, Simon Boyle, founder of social enterprise restaurant Brigade Bar + Kitchen in London Bridge, which works with disadvantaged, often homeless Londoners, and trains them up to become chefs, said it was "yet another huge blow" for the hospitality industry and particularly for businesses like his that rely heavily on trade from those working in the city.
The move follows the Covid-19 alert level being upgraded yesterday from Level 3 to Level 4, the second-highest grade, meaning the virus is in general circulation, high or rising exponentially.
People working from home between March and June during lockdown cost the hospitality sector approximately £2.3b of spending in shops, pubs and eateries near London employment hubs, and the move is likely to hit city operators and caterers.
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