Industry figures have called for a series of tax breaks and subsidies for hospitality over fears that hundreds of operators could go out of business thanks to the coronavirus.

One CEO of a major casual dining operator told MCA the situation was having a “drastic impact” on trading and was “very worrying for all”.

Wireless Social said when the weekend began, London was hit by a 30% reduction in footfall which was “entirely unprecedented”.

Footfall was also down between 20% and 35% in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

A “short-term cashflow catastrophe” was coming, said UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls.

She called on the government to immediately suspend business rates, extend statutory sick pay to every business regardless of size, offer short term subsidies for any business experiencing dangerous drops in trade, and that suppliers and landlords should be warned off chasing arrears.

“Cash in the bank to pay staff is the absolute priority for businesses,” said Nicholls. “Government should step in and cover wage costs so our staff can continue to look after themselves so businesses will still be there to provide them with employment when the country gets back on its feet.”

In order to stave off job losses she also recommended the plan announced by the Danish government, which will fund operators 75% of the salary for any employee in danger of being made redundant due to the outbreak.

Luke Johnson tweeted “after communicating with several owners of hospitality companies in last 48 hours, I predict an avalanche of redundancies.”

Speaking to Sky News, experienced operator and Street Feast founder Jonathan Downey warned most businesses have “four to six weeks before they run out of cash. I hope to see an announcement in the next day or so that will reassure businesses, so we can start to plan for the next few months and maintain the vital contribution to the economy we make.”

It’s thought many operators threatened by a severe restriction in cashflow will prioritise paying staff and suppliers before landlords and the HMRC. This DWP link explains what the government is offering in terms of coronavirus related support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses.

To mitigate the ongoing drop in footfall, Mark McCulloch, brand and marketing strategist at Supersonic Inc, advocated a step up in communications over issues like social distancing, e.g. marketing a reduction in the number of tables in a restaurant to provide more space, or promoting delivery and collection for customers preferring to avoid physical contact. He also advised offering gift vouchers for a future date at the moment of cancellation.

The Department for Health and Social Care said as of 9am on 15 March, 35 patients have died. Over 40,000 people had been tested for coronavirus, with 1,372 testing positive with the vast majority - 38,907 - testing negative.