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© Piotr Kowalczyk

London’s bars and restaurants are calling for a national rent freeze to help them survive

By Joe Mackertich
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Leading figures from the restaurant world are backing a campaign to ask the government to grant the hospitality industry a much-needed #NationalTimeOut. Big names including Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux Jr and Angela Hartnett have endorsed a letter sent to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, recommending that the entire sector be put ‘on hold’, allowing business owners to postpone paying rent for nine months. 

‘I’m not sure people realise how busy restaurants have to be before they start to make a profit,’ said Kerridge. ‘We are all seeing restaurants reopening in China and Hong Kong but the economics of running a restaurant are very different here in the UK. Our fixed costs are so much higher. Many restaurants in the UK make small profits or just break even.’

With the government’s recent announcement that pubs and restaurants will be the last to reopen, thousands of much-loved high-street establishments are facing a battle for survival. The letter to Sunak was written by Hospitality Union founder Jonathan Downey (of Street Feast fame) and has been supported and signed by key figures in the restaurant industry including Alasdair Murdoch (CEO of Burger King UK), Thomasina Miers (co-founder of Wahaca), Will Beckett (CEO of Hawksmoor), Pano Christou (CEO of Pret), Des Gunewardena (CEO of D&D London) and many others. Restaurants are already picking up the initiative and sharing it, asking the government to ‘Press Pause’.

‘Hospitality is one of the hardest-hit sectors, and will be one of the last to recover,’ said Miers. ‘We [account for] one in ten of the UK’s employees and vital social and cultural centres at the heart of cities and communities. This initiative will go some way to preventing an otherwise annihilation one of the country’s most creative and dynamic industries.’

There are more details of Hospitality Union and the #NationalTimeOut initiative here.

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