You may be struggling to get a reservation at your favourite restaurant, but that doesn’t mean the sector has recovered from the pandemic, according to new data.
Booked out terraces are putting a positive facade on an industry still in crisis, with orders estimated to be at just 60 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.
Data compiled by wholesale marketplace Rekki shows that London restaurants are ordering in far fewer ingredients than before, and that many have shifted their offering to tried-and-tested staples such as burgers and pizza. The number of distinct ingredients ordered is at half of pre-Covid levels.
While 70 per cent of restaurants are thought to have reopened in some form, the tightening of belts and smaller orders could have a devastating effect on suppliers. Orders of fresh meat are only at 60 per cent of pre-lockdown levels, compared with easily delivered baked goods, which have rebounded to February 2020 numbers.
London is still faring better than some other countries, however, with New York and Chicago both in the doldrums with orders just 35 per cent of pre-Covid levels.
The UK hospitality industry was among the worst affected by the pandemic with 30,000 job losses throughout last year. Deliveries during the same period grow by 350 per cent.
“Restaurants and pubs look busy and are hard to book but that is because there are so few covers with social distancing rules,” says Ronen Givon, co-founder and CEO of Rekki. “Places have sold a few take-away pints but that won’t make the difference the industry needs. The data from the first two weeks of trading since 12 April is encouraging but the hospitality industry is not out of the woods yet.
“The restaurant industry now has a once in a lifetime chance to put itself on a solid business footing and end the crazy cycle of ever slimmer margins and promotions. Restaurants have razor-thin margins that were largely unviable even before Covid. Being able to get together with friends and family over a good meal is one of the most missed experiences of the last 12 months of lockdowns but as they reopen, owners and chefs need to use technology to really take control of their business.”