Looking back at how we entered into 2020 the headlines were dominated by plant-based, vegan and vegetarian themes. Consumer reports on eating trends and forecasts were impossible to overlook and seemed to fully justify predicting the plant-based, vegan and vegetarian revolution dominating 2020.
- January’s most read article was – In 2020 sustainability and veganism will become a moral responsibility for hospitality and catering.
In February we ran our first mention of Covid-19, as countries around the world banned travel to and from China we asked how long before the UK followed. We were also reporting the UK restaurant takeaway sector 2020 growing faster than any other, with no foresight of what was to come.
- February’s most read article was still shining positive as we reported Hilton growing their talent pool through increasing apprenticeships in 2020.
As we entered March Covid-19 was still somewhat in the background thousands of miles away in China but now moving closer as outbreaks around Europe emerged. Most reporting at the time was unaffected and new openings, events and new contracts were still being awarded and announced.
The all too ominous advance of the pandemic was starting to concern many people and on 9 March we published our first prediction of changes to hospitality – Covid-19 the unwanted solution to hospitality’s people and skills shortages. In the same article we referenced UK Hospitality Chief Executive, Kate Nicholls, calling on Government for wide-ranging business support to deal with the threat of Covid-19.
As the month progressed the news became more menacing and Kate Nicholls wrote to the Prime Minister on 17 March warning – Hospitality’s survival now in Government hands. The stark tone could have seemed alarmist to some, unfortunately it proved all too pertinent.
Throughout March the realisation of an impending disaster was sinking in, unfortunately the behaviour of some in hospitality also sank – The Hospitality COVID-19 Angels & Demons Scales of Empathy – but for every demon at least two angels appeared. Amongst many rallying to help others, the actions and words of Tim Martin and JD Wetherspoon made multiple headlines. Martin’s disregard for others was emphasised through leaving his workers and suppliers unpaid as the crisis deepened.
23 March saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson announce the UK in lock down. At the same time circa one third of the world’s population was under Covid-19 restrictions and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan was cancelled.
- March’s most read article advised cautious pragmatism in the management of cashflow for hospitality businesses- Hospitality and catering businesses need to immediately recognise Cash is KING.
By April hospitality’s benevolence was in full swing, despite countless hardships endured, hotels were providing beds for the homeless and restaurants, caterers and publicans were feeding the needy.
April also saw market leaders leading by example like Sodexo: Acting to protect clients, consumers, suppliers and employees in 67 countries, combating the health, economic and social fallout from Covid-19.
- April’s most read article reflected on an interview by Piers Morgan with Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock. Hospitality Closed Heathrow Open – Hancock was caught live on TV totally bewildered and unable to explain why 15,000 people a day were flying into Heathrow, unchecked and free to roam around the UK, while hospitality and other businesses were closed. The interview is on video in the article and was an early indication of Government policy on the fly, excuse the pun.
Heathrow to this day largely remains open and arrivals remain unchecked, baffling, one for future documentaries.
May saw all too many business failures, CVA’s were being sought by many especially in casual dining, and acquisitions were emerging as some looked to pick up bargains. As restrictions continued, easing them was being considered and we spoke with business leaders tasked with the challenge of reopening. Collaboration was an often used term, and in the world of foodservice it was becoming the norm.
- May’s most read article was an interview with Ian Thomas, CEO, Bartlett Mitchell looking at the challenges ahead.
June saw increased frustration at hospitality still being closed and much speculation on reopening. It was precisely three months after lockdown that the Prime Minister on 23 June announced hospitality could reopen.
- June’s most read article was a call to Government from labour’s Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business – Labour Party warns hospitality industry faces collapse.
July finally saw hospitality reopen and huge demand for supplies to do so safely. Following June’s plans and announcements of hospitality reopenings, pages in July were reporting on an industry once more able to trade, albeit under strict guidelines.
Food delivery had flourished throughout the early months of lockdown and delivery businesses were in acquisition mode. Uber announced the acquisition of Postmates for $2.65 billion on 8 July.
There had been much debate about face coverings and their effectiveness in combating the spread of Covid-19. On 14 July, the Government made face masks mandatory in England.
As July saw diners return to restaurants, restaurateurs started to report a new pandemic in no shows. After weathering lockdown all too many bookings were abandoned impacting severely. Adam Handling was having none of it and in an interview explained in no uncertain terms how he was getting tough with no shows and advising others to also.
- July’s most read article was a solution to the face mask mandate – enabling hospitality delivered safely. It was a close run thing as suppliers of safe hospitality products and services were in very high demand.
August emerged and with it acquisitions a plenty as buyers eyed a reopened industry trading again. Epiris acquired Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge saving more than 4,000 jobs and others followed. Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out went into overdrive and so did many restaurants eager to recoup lost revenues from recent months of closure.
While restaurants were busy others were less so, and on 17 August the foodservice industry brought new meaning to the word collaborate through the launch of Food Service Circle. More than 20 leading foodservice businesses joined forces enabling for Food Service Circle to be launched, a platform supporting those affected by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis.
August also saw a number of alarming financial reports showing how Covid-19 had negatively impacted hospitality, Accor’s numbers were alarming. Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Accor, on 5 August reported first half 2020 results. The first half of 2019 showed a profit of €141 million, in the same period 2020 a loss of €1,512 million was incurred.
The Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative was a huge success, seeing more than 35 million meals purchased in the first two weeks of August.
Pubs were also reopening but with rent bills growing faster than takings. Pub groups supported many and saw Ei Publican Partnerships provide pub rent support of £32 million.
- August’s most read article looked at collaboration in procurement, many businesses were looking for new ways of working – Business & Industry Foodservice Procurement: It’s about we, not me.
The improvements in the outlook of many seen through August were quickly curtailed in September when the Prime Minister announced the Rule of Six. Many in hospitality were once again frustrated by the news and the lack of clarity from Government in how the new guidelines were to be followed. Hoteliers including Brenda Collin and Danny Pecorelli as well as Foodservice’s Chris Stern and Chef Adam Handling all voiced concern.
Safe hospitality was back in the headlines as numerous consumer reports were highlighting. Diners were searching for eateries that were Covid safe, and a report from Tripadvisor showed how few restaurants were taking advantage – safe restaurant gap opportunity in London – the gap was not just in London.
The QSR giants were announcing major changes to their business models and as we would see later in the year diners and profits would following them. Burger King led the way with a new design for their restaurants worldwide.
The fallout from the pandemic continued to hit hard and Whitbread reduced their entire workforce by 18% to combat the decline in trade.
There seems to be have been something about the 23rd of the month in 2020 for Government, six months after announcing lockdown the Prime Minister announced – a curfew on hospitality.
- September’s most read article was a call from the NHS to hospitality urging preparedness for their Covid-19 App.
Early in October the impact on hospitality from the 10pm curfew was apparent and saw UKHospitality CEO, Kate Nicholls voicing those concerns in a House of Commons Treasury Committee meeting. Sir Keir Starmer voiced similar concerns and many back bench Conservatives backed him.
There were mounting worries that school children were missing out on meals and October saw Marcus Rashford MBE emphasise the ongoing need for Free School Meals.
Pubs were continuing to suffer, seeing Greene King and other large pub groups extend their rent support schemes to help.
Signals from Government were indicating that a second lockdown was on the way, we interviewed Michel Roux Jr to share his experiences of the first lockdown to offer insight in preparing for what was coming. It proved all too relevant.
October also saw the social media faux pas of the year from Selaine Saxby, the Conservative MP for North Devon. On Facebook Saxby mocked hospitality for providing free meals for school children, saying that if hospitality businesses were so well off to do so, they should not seek any further economic support from Government.
October was the month where the hospitality industry mobilised in a collective call to Government to appoint a Minister for Hospitality. A petition was initiated by Claire Bosi, Editor of Chef and Restaurant Magazine. The petition was then championed by hotelier Harry Murray MBE who applied tenacious dedication to the cause through social media and his personal social network.
Following a summer of acquisitions in the restaurant sector Food Service saw Westbury Street Holdings acquire Bartlett Mitchell. Founders Wendy Bartlett and Ian Mitchell joined Noel Mahony, co-chief executive, BaxterStorey and director, WSH saying “together we are stronger.”
- October’s most read article came on the last day of the month when we published news England was going back into lockdown hours before the announcement was made by the Prime Minister.
November then witnessed the Government seemingly in panic, policies changed at a moment’s notice, and communications even more garbled. There was hope that the lockdown might ease things sufficiently to look at reopening hospitality for the festive season, but that diminished as the month progressed.
More restaurants succumbed to Covid-19 and on 14 November Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala announced the closure of Café Spice Namaste. One of London’s favourite eateries for more than 25 years now no more signalled that no hospitality business was immune to the economic impact from Covid-19.
Brexit had been in the background for much of the year as Covid-19 had stolen most of the headlines. Brexit came back into focus sharply in November as a deal had still not been agreed with only weeks for hospitality businesses to prepare for an unknown. President elect Joe Biden was however busy with Brexit, making clear to the Prime Minister the potential cost to the UK of a no deal Brexit.
New tier systems were introduced by the Government in November and like much of the political messaging that month was as clear as mud, hospitality businesses were left bewildered. Once again Kate Nicholls took pen to paper and wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak underlining that additional financial support was absolutely vital to ensure hospitality businesses survive the ongoing pandemic.
KFC like Burger King months earlier released a video showcasing their new restaurant design limiting personal contact. Also like Burger King profits had soared through the pandemic as diners went digital.
The pandemic was now impacting training and education in hospitality seeing plans for a new training hotel collapsed due to lack of funding.
Pub groups were shedding jobs significantly, towards the end of November Mitchells & Butlers cut 1,300 jobs after announcing a £300 million year on year reversal in finances.
- November’s most read article thankfully gave some respite from Covid-19 through a return to sustainability. Costas Christ, Brand Leader, Beyond Green addressed Sustainable Tourism and how flying can help save the planet.
December was upon us and started with some great news, the MHRA had granted a license to Pfizer/BioNTech for its vaccine against Covid-19.
More good news followed as #SEATATTHETABLE was launched garnering wider industry support of Minister for Hospitality. Robin Hutson, Chairman & CEO, The Pig Hotel, Tom Kerridge, owner of Two Michelin star pub The Hand & Flowers, Angela Hartnett, Chef and Proprietor, Murano and many more hospitality people came together to aid the campaign.
The power of social media was again demonstrated in December when Chef James Martin got behind the Minister for Hospitality campaign on twitter. One tweet with an emotional plea on video from Martin helped significantly in getting the campaign beyond its 100,000 signatories goal. Parliament then days later confirmed a debate to appoint a Minister for Hospitality would take place on Monday 11th January 2021 at 4.30pm. The combined efforts of a great many people in hospitality came to fruition, and Claire Bosi who started the campaign was delighted.
Sustainability was again making the headlines with The Crown Estate committing to being a net zero carbon business by 2030.
Early in December hospitality was still looking to enjoy a festive boost to finances as 93 acres of Chelsea and Knightsbridge were transformed to welcome Christmas hospitality footfall.
Charity Hospitality Action had been busy all year and we featured just how in December showing the difference made by people focused on helping others.
In the run up to Christmas plans for how it could be in part celebrated were under intense speculation as Covid-19 transmission was increasing. Government on 19 December for all intents and purposes than cancelled Christmas. On the morning of 19 December we were reporting that an announcement was imminent, and it came. At 4pm London and much of SE England was placed in Tier 4, alongside cancelling a previous temporary relaxing of rules over Christmas.
The announcement was followed the next day with Matt Hancock appearing on both Sky News and BBC News telling the world that the Government had “lost control” of the virus, whoops. Over the next few days circa 50 countries banned flights from the UK and/or closed their borders to UK citizens- Borders closing worldwide to the UK following Government admission of losing control.
Hospitality businesses in tiers 1,2 and 3 then experienced the fallout from Tier 4 regulations in other parts of England.
The huge numbers applied to news throughout the year were precisely that, numbers, so we spoke with one hotelier in London to get a more personal insight to what closing hospitality over Christmas meant. Stuart Procter is Chief Operating Officer of Stafford Collection and he set out the knock on effect for ‘his people’ eloquently.
On Christmas Eve thousands of lorries were stuck in Kent unable to move anywhere and providing an insight to what a no deal Brexit would deliver more of in the new year. Thankfully after years of negotiations a deal was announced and the importing and exporting process for hospitality businesses was seemingly set to be less problematic.
Towards the close of December we remembered for the second time how many people in hospitality had lost their lives to Covid-19, far too many.
On 30 December the Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca was approved for use in the UK, and with it a big dose of some much needed optimism as 2021 approaches.
- December’s most read article was another call on Government from UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls for much needed economic support for hospitality.
A fitting way to end our review of the year as the work done by Kate Nicholls throughout 2020 has been truly remarkable. Countless businesses in hospitality are still operating and thousands of people are still employed directly as a consequence of Nicholls’ diligence and tenacity, Thank you.
We would also like to say thank you to all our readers throughout 2020, we hope you have found reading H&C News helpful.
Last and most certainly not least we would like to say thank you to our advertisers. Throughout what has undoubtedly been a truly terrible year your loyalty has made us extremely grateful.
Wishing all a very happy, healthy and hopefully prosperous 2021