Greene King boss calls for dining out scheme extension
THE Government needs to extend its Eat Out to Help Out scheme to assist London and other struggling cities to recover from the pandemic, according to the boss of the pub chain Greene King.
Nick Mackenzie, the Greene King chief executive, told London’s Evening
Standard newspaper that its trade in the capital had been “significantly worse” than expected since lockdown restrictions were eased, with weekly sales about 60pc lower than one year ago.
His comments will fuel concerns about the damage being done to London’s once-thriving bars and restaurant scene as many workers who would usually use them remain away from offices to work from home.
Greene King, which was sold last year to Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing for £2.7bn, has more than 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the UK, including many in the City and in the West End.
Profits for the year to April 26, about one month after lockdown was enacted, fell 15pc to £412m. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme gives diners 50pc off bills, up to £10, to try to encourage them back into restaurants and boost the hospitality industry, which was forced to shut down, other than for takeaway food during lockdown.
Around 80pc of hospitality firms halted trading, with 1.4 million workers furloughed, the highest of any sector. Launched at the start of August, Eat Out to Help Out has subsidised more than 35m restaurant meals during its first two weeks.
Mr Mackenzie said the scheme had been “fantastic” but must be extended. He added that other forms of support for the sector were also required.
City centres are still suffering as people continue to work from home and are avoiding using public transport.
Pret a Manger, the sandwich chain, has been forced to cut staff working hours and close some of its stores.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade association UK Hospitality, told the Evening Standard: “It is increasingly clear that the crisis is far from over for London’s hospitality businesses and that the city will be affected more deeply and for longer than other parts of the country.”