City operators have said they are "delighted" to see the government launch a campaign to encourage people back to the workplace.
A television and newspaper campaign, coinciding with the reopening of schools, is to launch next week with the aim of reducing the number of people working from home. The move away from the office prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to take a severe toll on city centre footfall and on hospitality businesses operating in the office and on the high street.
Allister Richards, chief operating officer of contract caterer CH&Co, said: "Together with UKHospitality, we've been championing the importance of encouraging people back to their workplaces and we're delighted that the government has announced a formal campaign to do just this. This is a huge step forward for the continued recovery and rebuild of the hospitality industry and our business. We wholeheartedly welcome this approach."
Chris Mitchell, managing director of the Genuine Dining Company, also welcomed the campaign, saying his business' priority since the beginning of lockdown had been to save jobs, something that could only happen with a return to workplaces.
He added: "We have been advising our clients to get their food services back to normal as soon as possible. Offices need to be welcoming places that represent the conditions they left behind in March.
"The things people have missed out on while working from home is collaboration and socialising. This is what a workplace catering offer gives – it's the hub of the building and a crucial part of working life."
The government has asked employers to communicate the safety measures they have undertaken with staff to ease the move back, and both caterers said they have worked with clients to develop their plans around social distancing.
Richards added: "We have continued to work closely with our workplace clients to understand their needs and to develop remobilisation plans that ensure we can reopen our catering services safely, in line with differing working practices and each unique environment, as they bring their people back to their offices – all in line with the physical distancing requirements and government guidance.
"With safety measures in place, together with innovative developments to our food offerings, service and delivery provisions that reflect the changing needs and demands of the workplace, our guests can return with confidence."
For restaurants, particularly those in the financial centres of the City of London and Canary Wharf, seeing employees return is essential.
Martin Williams, chief executive of M Restaurants and Gaucho, said: "The restaurant scene is a reflection of the City: a healthy mix of entrepreneurship and institutionally backed eateries have made London the culinary envy of the world for the past decade. Square Mile venues have arguably been the pinnacle of this scene and right now, many of these drinking and dining establishments require support.
"It's time for the City to return to the City, take the lead and become part of the Covid solution to the economic fallout. The Mayor could start with a very easy win and get the Waterloo and City line open tomorrow!"
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