The hospitality industry has been hit by a surge in cancellations since Boris Johnson announced that Plan B would be implemented – however some report these spots are being filled by other customers.

Jeremy King, chief executive, Corbin & King, said that ‘Omicron panic’ had led to the restaurant group experiencing “a much high level of cancellations”. But fortunately, at present, those tables were filling with “the more intrepid”.

The Alchemist CEO Simon Potts said that while it’s certainly had cancellations, they have been managed by a well-drilled sales team, and “by and large have rebooked or held over for the New Year”.

While Peter-Borg Neal, executive chairman at The Oakman Group said that while it had lost a lot of party bookings he was confident that many of those spots would be filled by those working from home, due to its pubs’ locations within the commuter belt.

‘Sensationalist media coverage is driving behaviour’

Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emeny, commented that: “Across the hospitality, and at the exact time when we should be most profitable, we have seen cancellations due to the Government’s introduction of Plan B.”

Emeny said the sensationalist media coverage of the Omicron variant had also been driving consumer behaviour – often far more than government advice – and that there was “a marked drop” in both booked and walk-in trade, particularly in town and city centre locations.

“The government has to sit up, take notice and recognise the precarious position the hospitality industry finds itself in again,” he said. “We at least need additional business rates support and an extension to the VAT cut, and at best we need the support of the furlough scheme as we enter the traditionally quieter January period to protect our team members and avoid the recruitment issues we all faced after the last lock down.”

Speaking out on social media earlier this week, chef and restauranteur Tom Kerridge said that 654 diners had cancelled their bookings over the past six days at just one of his restaurants. He called on the government for financial support to help businesses struggling with the sudden loss of custom, saying that “many places are going to crumble without help”.

The rise of the no-show?

Another to speak out on Twitter was Joe Cussens, MD at The Bath Company, who said that no shows had now joined the cancellations party with “Christmas rapidly turning into a horror for hospitality”.

Harts Group has also been experiencing a higher number of no-shows at some of its London restaurants than previously, as well as cancellations across the group. Its head of sales, Elli Sallis said that its no-show rate for Quo Vadis was up slightly to just under 5%, but still low.

Contrastingly the no-show rate at Casa and Plaza Pastor is high at 10%. “Friday lunch along had a 28% no-show rate,” she said, with El Pastor Soho at 13.8% on average – a 4% increase from last week.

While Potts added that the Alchemist hadn’t not seen a spike in no-shows he said the group has tried to meet the wider sector problem proactively.

“We use a combination of methods to combat; deposits where appropriate, overbooking at key times and probably most powerfully, amplifying our message that the venues will always accommodate walk in parties – we’ve kept that approach in place throughout the period,” he said.