Having waited months to welcome customers back inside, for one operator, 17 May was just like a normal Monday.
The weather may have put a dampener on people’s motivation to leave the house, even if to enter the cosy confines of their local pub.
Yet in many ways, no news was good news for Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s
“It was just a normal Monday with no queues,” he told MCA. “All very calm, all well behaved and respectful.
“As for the fear mongering that is going on, I am not concerned at the moment,” Dardis added, with regards to concerns about the Indian variant and its potential to wreck the roadmap.
With hospital numbers still coming down daily, he said he was “still hopeful” the 21 June date would be stuck to.
Stonegate made a virtue of ensuring its teams were well prepared to welcome customers back inside, “huge efforts” which CEO Simon Longbottom said were welcomed by customers demonstrating their support for hospitality.
“Our pubs and bars have been made as safe as can be in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 and we continue to demonstrate the low risk within well managed hospitality venues,” he told MCA.
“We implore the government to continue to stick with the roadmap and not further demonise and damage the sector.”
At PizzaExpress, trade was busier than expected, with a healthy mix of pre-bookings and walk-ins.
Managing Director Zoe Bowley said: “Our teams worked incredibly hard to prepare for it, and the atmosphere was great. We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of the week goes.”
Punch Pubs & Co has reopened 99% of its pubs across the country, which CEO Clive Chesser called “another positive step forwards towards full reopening”.
“But whilst it is pleasing to be able to welcome guests back inside their local for a drink or bite to eat, this is by no means the end of the crisis for our sector,” he cautioned.
“We will only return to profitable trading levels once all social distancing restrictions are lifted from June 21, and we remain confident that the government will be able to stick to its published roadmap on the back of the continuing success of the vaccination programme.”
The Ivy Collection noted “a real sense of excitement” on Monday as the brand welcomed guests back inside its restaurants.
“We saw strong levels of trading and there is definitely consumer confidence as diners look to enjoy what the hospitality sector has to offer in a safe and enjoyable way,” CEO Baton Berisha said.
“Our teams have prepared incredibly well for the return of indoor dining and its success is testament to them.”
Rekom UK, formerly Deltic, has reopened around three quarters of its estate this week as repurposed bars, which will not be profitable, but will “start the wheels turning”, according to CEO Peter Marks.
However, he raised concerns that the late-night sector would be the victim of any slowdown of easing.
“What concerns me is nightclub operators, amongst the worst affected of the hospitality sector having not been able to open at all, being given some kind of Covid compliance requirements, and therefore at a disadvantage to late night pubs and bars,” he said.
“I can see people accepting Covid tests for a special occasion such as a holiday to Portugal or a special event or festival, but not for the spontaneous night out. If I had to have a vaccine passport and the pub next door doesn’t need it then guests will stay in the pub.”
Brewhouse & Kitchen said sales were very positive on Monday, with a 130% uplift on the same Monday in 2019, for the comparable number of sites.
Chief executive Kris Gumbrell said “the real rush” is expected over the weekend, with thousands of covers booked in already.
However trading was “still fragile”, with demand tempered by concerns over the new variant.
“It’s important for us to get the message across that we are not the ‘vectors of transmission’”, he said.
“Pent up demand will ease off and a lot of damage has been done to our sector, not only financially but reputationally as an employer of choice because of how we have been vilified.”
Opening night: ‘All very calm, well behaved and respectful’
Having waited months to welcome customers back inside, for one operator, 17 May was just like any normal Monday. The weather may have put a dampener on people’s motivation to leave the house, even if to enter the cosy confines of their local pub. Yet in many ways, no news was good news for Patrick Dardis, chief executive of Young’s. “It was just a normal Monday with no queues,” he told MCA. “All very calm, all well behaved and respectful.”