Greene King boss calls for din­ing out scheme ex­ten­sion

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Rachel Mil­lard

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.”

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