Wednesday 3 March 2021 4:02 pm

Chefs spy light at end of Covid tunnel after Sunak budget

Chefs and restaurateurs across London have welcomed Rishi Sunak’s “life saving” budget plans announced today.

A raft of measures aimed at keeping the embattled hospitality industry afloat until it can fully reopen in June includes an extension of the furlough scheme, grants of up to £18,000 for pubs and restaurants, and an extension of the VAT cut.

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Jack Stein, chef director of Rick Stein Restaurants says he is impressed with the ‘super deduction’ for investment. “This will definitely stimulate our sector as hospitality looks to reopen. From investment in outdoor spaces to kitchen equipment this is a really positive step.”

Stuart Procter, COO at The Stafford Collection called the furlough extension “terrific”, saying it will help his business to slowly reopen. “The VAT cut extension and cut in business rates… is of huge help to us, however it would have been far more useful to have this running throughout the whole of 2021… We’ve got a long way to go, however it’s great to see support continuing from the Government as we hopefully come out the end of this crisis.”

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David Moore, owner of Pied à Terre, agreed: “All in all, it feels like a good budget. The reduction in business rates is great, though ultimately i’d be happier if he had said he was willing to look at the system and fix it, but for now we’ll take it. The furlough extension and employer contributions will support those who need it most… The grants feel a little on the low side… and the VAT reduction looks like it’s on the money. Overall I got what I asked for, so now it’s time to focus on regrowth.”

Marcos Fernandez, MD of Iberica Restaurants and Arros QD said: “Today the Conservative party has shown a strong support for business, which I am sure is a challenge with the ever growing debt that we are accumulating. The extension of the furlough will allow the labour flexibility needed as consumer confidence is recovered. It is also long enough to allow for the still uncertain short term. 

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Rik Campbell, co-owner of Kricket, said he was “feeling inspired” He said: “It’s an innovative plan and it feels like the government are doing what needs to be done – supporting the right businesses and asking for contributions from those that can afford it.”

Eran Tibi at Bala Baya said: “We are extremely happy with the budget. It’s life saving and a great example to the world on how to save the economy in a safe, slow but successful manner.”

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The budget wasn’t universally well-received, however. “I can’t help but feel the scheme has masked the deep pain and unfair treatment suffered by the UK hospitality industry during the pandemic,” says Jeremy Simmonds, co-founder of Swingers. “Our business has traded for about two months out of the last year and the government support has been wholly inadequate.”

“The budget announcement did not fully live up to the expectations,” says Mohammad Paknejad, co-founder of Nutshell Covent Garden. “As encouraging as it was to see [Sunak] extending the VAT cut, it was very disappointing that he decided against extending the business rate holiday for another year. As he admitted himself… the hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit hard and without further support from the government, many businesses might not be able to survive.”