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New COVID-19 rules are “slap in the face” to struggling restaurants and takeaways

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Recent changes to COVID-19 regulations that favour exorbitant commission-charging delivery giants, are a “slap in the face” to struggling restaurants and takeaways nationwide, a Kebab Industry representative has warned.

Timur Ekingen, the editor of the UK Kebab Industry Trade Publication BritShish, fiercely criticised the government’s new restrictions on the hospitality sector in England that make it mandatory for restaurants to close at 10pm and forbid collection takeaways. The rules still allow delivery services including Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats to operate after the cut-off time.

Mr Ekingen said, “These new regulations are a slap in the face to the many small restaurants and takeaways across England that are struggling to survive. Worse still, not only do they restrict opportunities for a business to serve customers directly after 10pm – a peak time on Fridays and Saturdays – but they also force many restaurants to rely on third party delivery giants that can eat huge chunks out of their incomes with excessive commission charges. Some of these charges can be as high as 35% of a sale, plus a separate delivery fee. The government is basically forcing many restaurants to choose between losing essential income after ten o’clock, or lining the pockets of Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo. If these businesses choose the latter, some may even end up operating at a loss. It’s a disgrace.”

Other sector representatives have also criticised the new rules for creating new problems for restaurants around staffing and hour allocation, as well as disadvantaging curry vendors in particular.

Salim Chowdhury, the President of the British Bangladeshi Caterers Association (BBCA) which represents thousands of businesses, told BritShish, “Whilst restaurant owners, staff and customers alike are sad at the 10pm curfew, we must remember that it has been done on the advice of public health experts. Saving lives has to come first.

“However, clarity of rules is imperative. The 10pm rule has got through but the feedback from our BBCA network is that customers remain social and start to interact with other groups once they have left a restaurant. There’s also a rush hour across the sector as customers eye up 8pm slots and if not booking then come to find a huge queue. The relatively sparse attendances in early evenings mean staff are rendered less important and then suddenly are needed at 100% in the final two hours. As such reallocating hours and working out how many staff remain on the books are questions looming over all restaurants.

“It might be that restaurants need to encourage earlier arrivals – but the curry sector more than others, is widely regarded as a dinner dish more than a lunch. Also, without us doing breakfasts, we are a distinct disadvantage to other restaurants with a diverse income stream. Curry houses have traditionally depended on the later part of the evening. The rush will also deter customers who have arrived to find a queue in that small 8-10pm window, leaving them more likely to order a Deliveroo which plays into the hands of the recognisable high street restaurant brands.”

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