Sunday 19 April 2020 10:00 pm

Coronavirus hits hospitality: The industry needs your help

Alex Cheatle is CEO and Founder at Ten Lifestyle Group

Yes, you know the drill: The best thing you can do right now is to stay on the sofa, watching Netflix. But that’s all going to change. Radically. 

In a few weeks’ time, when the experts and our government pronounce it safe, one of the best things you can do to support an entire industry is, unexpectedly, one of the most pleasurable.

Because one of the best things you can do post-lockdown, is get out and spend money at your favourite eating destinations, whether they’re high-end gastro-destinations, wonderful family-run hidden gems or fantastic street-food stalls. If you take care, why not enjoy the most excellent food (not to say wine) that you can find? This act will help support an entire industry struggling to deal with the body blow from COVID-19. 

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As the co-founder and CEO of Ten Lifestyle Group, I run the company that books more tables in top restaurants than anyone else. We provide concierge services to the customers of service-driven brands like Coutts and HSBC Jade. In 2019, at no cost to our members, we recommended and then reserved the best tables at over 10,000 of the most wonderful restaurants around the world. This is one of the most popular aspects of our service, which also covers travel, live entertainment and, right now, lockdown support.  

We know that enjoying great food out is one of the greatest pleasures in life, we reconnect with dear friends and family and build the kind of business relationships that will be needed for us to come out of this downturn. That’s not to mention being central to how people fall – and stay – in love.  And, of course, we know a workday can be made so much better by hitting the restaurant around the corner at lunchtime to sample its specialty; whether it’s a spicy pork banh mi, crispy buttermilk fried chicken or a hearty paneer kati roll. 

We also know that our members want to know that great food, the people who create it and serve it, will survive and thrive. Our members have been extremely vocal about this, and many have already committed to returning at the earliest opportunity.

It’s a start, but your preferred eating places, the talented chefs and the hardworking teams running them, will need your help in the coming months more than at any time in history.  They have been hit by an extended period with no income while rents are still due, on top of which they’ve binned all their perishables without compensation. They’re facing lockdown issues that are unique to the sector.  

And then there’s the cost to the people. The service-driven staff have not been able to claim tips as part of their defined income, under the terms of the government ‘furlough’ support. This means that very many, the ones who have not been laid off completely, are surviving on substantially reduced income.  From high-end destinations to street-food chefs selling unbelievably good barbeque, everyone desperately wants, and needs to get back to work. 

As these places re-open, they require customers at a time when many of their usual sources of trade will not be available.  Those with an age or a condition that makes them vulnerable may not be able to eat out; the tourists will not be thronging this summer; and bigger corporate bookings will take months to return to normal as cautious clients decline invitations and internal spend is cut by companies.  So, they need your custom more than ever – and without it very many risk going bust, prematurely ending years of struggle and success.

And not only the eating places, but a whole eco-system, will benefit from your spending; the niche, often family-run companies who farm the finest ingredients; the companies who provide the wine, tableware and who manage the laundry and, not least, the taxman who needs to collect the VAT (payable on food eaten in but not food taken out) and PAYE, generated by your activity, that will start to return the country to a more balanced budget.

It has been said that every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.  And, if you love great food, and care for its future, this is not a vote you can cast by post. We don’t want to see the varied and delightful dining scene in our cities and towns reduced to the blandness of the food scene of the 1980s.  To protect your preferred eating place, you will need to get out and eat there. Your action will help safeguard its future. And, in doing so, your act will play a huge role in creating a positive future for eating out in your parts of the world.

So if you are one of those who are healthy and if you are lucky enough to afford great food, then I challenge you to commit to booking your favorite restaurants,  trying new ones, or checking out that great food stall near work, in the weeks as we emerge from lockdown.  And use your concierge service, if you have one, to monitor when your preferred place re-opens – because those places will need you most in their opening weeks, when their successful re-start will depend on your custom.

Cast your vote – by spending in the places you love- for a world where great food, served to you in wonderful environments, will not be a casualty of COVID-19.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.