Published 21 July 2021
by Camilla Topham
Co-Founder of Distrkt and Residency Camilla Topham assesses the industry on the road to recovery and the reality of the rent moratorium extension
After a long wait for the end of restrictions, so called ‘Freedom Day’ has finally come around for the hospitality sector. For over 12 months, the sector has yo-yoed in and out of lockdowns adapting to an abundance of ever-changing restrictions; each negatively impacting turnover and presenting operational challenges. For hospitality, it has been the greatest crisis ever known and whilst the end of restrictions is the moment we have all waited for, there is a long road to recovery.
The re-opening journey for operators has not been smooth. Initially, whilst only able to trade outside, our great British weather did everything it could to dampen spirits and often operators were forced to close. Currently, staffing issues are a very real problem with the Brexit effect starting to be felt by an industry that has heavily relied on overseas workers. This significant staff shortage combined with current legal requirements to self-isolate for 10 days if contacted by a questionably accurate track and trace system is crippling hospitality as entire teams are being forced home. In many cases hospitality venues have been forced to close as they simply do not have enough staff to open. Urgent reform is required.
Sacha Lord, a huge voice for the industry and night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester said, “now the hard work really starts” and that ‘Recovery Day’ is a more fitting description for the end of restrictions. Hospitality businesses are now rebuilding and the Government needs to continue to provide support through business rates relief and tax reform. Many hospitality businesses have taken on debt to merely survive and whilst Government initiatives have been helpful, they have not been enough. The sector has an enormous role to play in the UK’s economic recovery and the Government needs to recognise this.
The commercial lease moratorium, originally put in place to protect tenancies, has now been extended in what was interpreted to be a ‘quick win’ for the Government in doing something positive for the sector. By extending this until next year it is hindering the sector from recovering by protecting businesses that in many cases were unfortunately not viable pre-pandemic. Most of our Landlord clients have been incredibly proactive in agreeing terms and payment plans with existing tenants and have experienced very few vacancies. The moratorium extension is not serving Landlords unable to take possession of properties with ‘zombie tenants’ in situ nor the operators that will drive the sector’s recovery. Market forces need to be allowed to take hold to release much needed sites and not to mention the staff they are keeping on furlough. As agents, we are witnessing very little movement in the market at present despite a huge number of requirements from hospitality operators.
The past 15 months has brought great disruption to the sector. However, we have also witnessed great appreciation and a public demonstration of support showing the importance of the hospitality sector to British life and culture. Being very active in the West End we have seen it roar back to life as people flock in hungry for culture and experience. Hospitality will provide a crucial role in revitalising our city centre.
Camilla Topham is Co-Founder of Distrkt and Residency (thisisresidency.co.uk) with extensive experience in F&B and leisure leasing in leading London developments and estates and nationwide. ([email protected])
Distrkt is a modern property consultancy that is predominantly Landlord focused and specialises in the restaurant and leisure sectors delivering an innovative company culture that reflects the dynamic sector in which it operates. (distrkt.uk)
Distrkt+ is an extension to Distrkt and offers an in-depth restaurant consultancy service to Landlords assisting them to work closer with their F&B tenants by gaining understanding and insight to their businesses and offering solutions for greater success.
Residency is a pop up initiative pair vacant restaurant venues with emerging chefs, restaurateurs and food and drink concepts offering support throughout the process for Landlord and operator. The key to unlocking vacant property (thisisresidency.co.uk)