Over 10,000 pubs and restaurants could face closure thanks to a ‘perfect storm’ of inflation, soaring energy costs and rising rents, Kate Nicholls has warned.

The UKHospitality CEO said the sector is facing “as big a crisis, if not bigger” than during the pandemic.

“We’re already seeing a lot of independent operators handing in the keys and walking away,” she told The Mail on Sunday.

She estimated that 20,000 of UK Hospitality members’ businesses are still operating below break-even and 30,000 have no cash reserves.

She added: “I’ve never seen such a toxic cocktail of costs. It is a perfect storm.”

Inflation in the restaurant trade is running at 13%-17% because of supply-chain disruption due to Covid and the war in Ukraine, and higher wages due to staff shortages.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Cost inflation means we have to trade 20% up just to stand still. We know that keys are being handed in at some tenancies.”