An extension of the lease forfeiture moratorium will do little to solve the industry’s rent crisis without a significant financial contribution from government, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.
Speaking at the event, Rare Restaurants CEO Martin Williams said that if the government’s intention behind the suggested extension – which is expected to be announced in coming days – is to buy time rather than to propose a more concrete solution, “then there’s no point.”
“If you’re extending the moratorium, there has to be a reason for it,” he said. “There has to be an output which is not just kicking the can down the road and delaying the inevitable.”
Having considered various suggestions from the likes of UK Hospitality, Deliveroo CEO Will Shu and Burger King UK CEO Alasdair Murdoch this week as to how the government could effectively tackle the rent issue, Williams said that whatever the solution, if has to be fiscal.
“A deferral wouldn’t really solve this problem,” he said. “I very much support suggestion that the government should be contributing.”
“Whether that’s 30% [with contributions split three ways between government, landlords and tenants], or it’s 50% that the government pay, there needs to be a reduction in there for the restauranteur or the hospitality business.”
Across the Gaucho and M Restaurant brands, Williams said his experience with landlords through the crisis has been “mixed,” with some offering a “very reasonable” tapered approach – waiving rent for the first two quarters, offering reductions for Q3 and Q4 before a transition to turnover rents – whilst others have been “very aggressive.”
“Where we’ve got unreasonable landlords, they want full rents, no excuses, and full service charge for the full nine months even though we’ve only been trading for a few of them,” he said. “Even with the moratorium they are still trying to threaten to take us to court.”
And whilst this this refusal to negotiate causes enough of an issue for restaurant groups like Rare, he added that for smaller independents the need for support is all the more pressing.
“The government have put in some amazing initiatives, have supported the industry and supported employment for six months, but if you’re now going to abandon that process, or you’re going to abandon it in six months, restaurants simply can’t pay it,” he said.
“There are too many independents that just can’t pay it and it will be a bloodbath.”
Also speaking at the event, Inception Group co-founder Charlie Gilkes said that with or without a government support package, it is time that certain landlords realise that it’s ultimately in their best interest to work with existing tenants where possible.
Should a landlord refuse to make any concessions and take an aggressive stance towards their tenants, he said, they will be left with vacant sites and a far more volatile commercial market.
“The site will probably sit empty for several years and when the new tenant does come in, they’ll probably want a year, if not more, rent-free,” he said. “And the rents that they will be negotiating will be considerably less than they were before.”
Alternatively, Gilkes suggested landlords could choose to form a partnership-based relationship with operators through recovery and take a short-term hit to secure long-term stability.
“I’d like to think that there is that pragmatic conversation to be had, and I know a lot of our landlords are understanding of that,” he said. “But it is a tricky one for some, and I do think government needs to step up to support those landlords, so they are able to give the breaks needed to tenants.”
“Otherwise there will be a bloodbath and tens of thousands of empty premises.”
Rare Restaurants CEO Martin Williams: ‘Moratorium extension pointless without fiscal support for rent’
An extension of the lease forfeiture moratorium will do little to solve the industry’s rent crisis without a significant financial contribution from government, MCA’s The Conversation has heard. Rare Restaurants CEO Martin Williams said “there’s no point” in an extension – which is expected to be announced in the coming days – if it is to buy time, rather than propose a more concrete solution. Also speaking at the event, Inception Group co-founder Charlie Gilkes said that with or without a government support package, it is time that certain landlords realise that it’s ultimately in their best interest to work with existing tenants where possible.