Hospitality firms are anxiously awaiting to see if Omicron variant headlines have hit consumer confidence.
The bosses of both Loungers’ and Marston’s told CityA.M. that it was too soon to tell if bar goers had been deterred from making trips to venues after news of a new Covid variant.
Loungers’ CEO Nick Collins said he hadn’t “seen any change in how customers are behaving” in the last few days.
“It’s too early to tell,” if headlines have impacted consumer confidence, he said. “Looking at sales from yesterday, there is no indication in the way the business is currently trading of any impact.”
“We have not seen an immediate wave of cancellations,” Andrew Andrea, CEO of Marston’s, told CityA.M, regarding consumer sentiment being swayed by recent headlines.
His comments came after Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK’s Health Security Agency, advised the public to consider socialising less to combat the spread of Covid.
“The demand is out there for people to go out and have a good December. There is always going to be different opinions expressed on socialising, people will increasingly make up their own minds,” Andrea said, in response to Harries’ comments.
Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns, said on Wednesday that sentiment had varied between different age groups.
“We are seeing that some of the people in large organisations who organise bigger events are taking the cautious view because I guess they feel some overriding responsibility. We are not seeing that in young people,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday.
“Social interaction is, after food and water, the most important thing for a human being’s mental health,” Osmond said.
Trade bodies have warned that messages from health experts advising the public to socialise with fewer people come just as the sector is recovering.
Night Time Industries Association boss Michael Kill dubbed recent messaging “another poorly-conceived communications strategy from Government which has and will severely impact businesses.”
Christmas bookings and advance ticket sales had “already been” following news of the variant, Kill said.
The sector was “reliving the moments of March 2020 where the Prime Minister asked people not to go to pubs, bars, clubs and theatres,” despite restrictions not being in place.
Mask rules have been reintroduced in shops and public transport, however hospitality settings are excluded this time.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive said the government’s response “strikes the right balance” between health and business concerns.
She added: “All the chilling talk of Plan B is already being felt across hospitality as bookings are cancelled and plans changed.
“There is no doubt that this will have a damaging effect on businesses, just as they head into their key trading period.”
A British Beer & Pub Association spokesperson said: “We welcome the Government’s decision not to enforce facemasks in pubs. Hospitality is a safe environment with less than two per cent of Covid outbreaks traced to venues, so restrictions need not be placed on our sector at this time – and particularly during the festive period where we visit the local to see friends and family.”