Olympic ‘ghost town' effect hits restaurant trade

31 July 2012 by
Olympic ‘ghost town' effect hits restaurant trade

Restaurants in central London are reporting a fall in trade as diners stay away owing to potential Olympic overcrowding.

Operators have reported a significant drop in footfall during the first few days of the games as punters avoid central London because of congestion fears.

The lack of customers comes after Mayor of London Boris Johnson advised Londoners to try to work from home, stagger working hours, work longer but fewer days, take annual leave and swap to walking and cycling where possible during the games.

But Richard, Earl of Bradford (pictured), the owner of Porters English Restaurant and Covent Garden Grill, said that as a result business was "even worse than we imagined".

"This week is massively down on the same time last year, while we are getting cancellations of bookings as people are heeding our wonderful mayor's advice to stay out of central London and to work from home," he said. "How did he think that his words would affect businesses? It must have been fairly obvious to most people."

David Moore, owner of the Michelin-starred Pied à Terre and L'Autre Pied restaurants, agreed: "I think the mayor has shot businesses in the foot with his advice. I travelled through London on Monday and it felt like a Sunday it was so quiet. I don't think there's a quick-fix solution, either. People have made their plans, they've gone away on holiday or taken their computers and are working from home for the next two weeks."

Moore added that while Charlotte Street seemed to be the same, Marylebone was extremely quiet. "In July L'Autre Pied is down for the first time this year. It's just so quiet, there are no walk-ins and no people in the street."

He went on to say that he didn't see any real bonus to restaurants from the games unless operators are based close to one of the Olympic venues. "I was at Wimbledon this week and everywhere was packed but it's very geographically specific to an Olympic event," he said.

Sam Hart, co-owner with his brother, Eddie, of Barrafina, Fino and Quo Vadis - which won this year's Menu of the Year Catey - said the West End was a bit like a ghost town at the moment. "We are definitely quieter than normal and I don't think I have ever seen the West End as quiet as it is right now," he said.

"The organisers totally overhyped the transport issues and now too many people are staying away. But I think that the message is starting to get out there and I'm hoping people will start to return this week. It's actually a great time to come into the West End - it's so quiet you can park wherever you like."

By Kerstin Kühn

E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn](mailto:kerstin.kuhn@rbi.co.uk) here.

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