As we approach the end of the second month of “lockdown”, we are still no clearer on our industry’s future. The government briefings and advice have been at best vague and at worst misleading. Our industry is the third largest employer in the UK and it’s about time we were considered seriously.
We are the industry that brings people together, friends, family and strangers. We are where society meets, eats and drinks. We are where people go to celebrate, to socialise, to meet. And we can not risk the lives our colleagues by reopening until it is genuinely safe to do so. This does not mean socially distanced restaurants and bars; our business will not survive with empty tables and empty chairs. We need a real strategy and real support if we are to survive and recover. Society needs us and we need to be back in our venues doing what we do best.
There has been talks that people are enjoying the furlough scheme and will not want to come off it. This is untrue for hospitality; whilst we work the holidays, the evenings, the weekends, we do because we love our jobs, our customers and our industry. We have been home for too long now, just look at social media where you will find your friendly local bartender or favourite restaurant chef still mixing drinks or creating meals. Our passion is still with us; you can take the staff out of their venues, but you can’t take the passion out of them.
We will recover, we just don’t know when and what it will be like when we do. That’s the scary part for us; with so much speculation in the news, mixed messages from the government and no answers from employers, its hard for us to know how long we will have to endure this for and what we will be coming back to. Our venues are not designed to have empty tables or Perspex shields separating customers and staff, but we also don’t want to compromise safety. Is it selfish of us to want things to return to our normal? We are the most adaptable people around; just watch us on a busy Friday night service dealing with all sorts of situations. But do we want to adapt if there is no other choice. What could the new normal be?
We are already seen as unskilled workers whilst we have a massive skills shortage in the industry. With the pandemic wreaking havoc upon us, will there be job losses and venues closing? Will it be harder to change jobs? Will it be financially harder to stay in the industry? Will businesses be more focussed on the bottom line than people if they weren’t already before?
We have a lot of questions but no one will have any one the answers.