The head of the UK’s representative body for the Italian food sector has said restaurants need extensive government support for the rest of the year if they are to survive. In a far reaching interview, BritShish spoke to the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association Director, Jim Winship, who shared his perspective on the impact of the coronavirus on his sector, and the next steps needed to sustain the industry going forward.
1. How has the lockdown impacted your members’ sales?
“The lockdown has had mixed results for our sector. While restaurants have been largely closed, pizza delivery businesses have continued trading throughout and have largely been doing well as consumers have turned to delivery through lockdown. The restaurant sector, as well as the supply chain behind them, has been on its knees. Although some restaurants have been doing takeaways and deliveries the income generated from this has generally been marginal in contributing to ongoing overheads.”
2. Have many of your member restaurants been able to stay open and trade as takeaways during the lockdown?
“We don’t have data on this but my guess is that less than 20% have been doing takeaways etc.”
3. Did the government grants and loans provided provide sufficient support for your member businesses to survive? Do you expect more support from the government?
“The restaurant sector will need ongoing support through the rest of this year if it is to survive and there are serious concerns about the mounting arrears from rents which could put many under if landlords are not sympathetic and work with their tenants. Social distancing, even at 1m, makes it difficult for many restaurants to open economically plus there are concerns that when they do re-open consumers may be cautious about gathering in groups.”
4. How could the new guidelines announced by the government affect your member businesses? Could a decrease in customers eating-in due to social distancing measures create problems for your members?
“It is difficult to be sure how all this will pan out in the long term. As a result of lockdown many more consumers have got used to ordering on line which may impact restaurants. The guidelines announced this week will help to get some starting up again but margins are generally tight and many will struggle to do more than cover costs.”
5. Do you expect some of your member businesses to close down?
“The casual dining sector was already under pressure before this started and, undoubtedly, there will be casualties. One of the key issues ongoing are the high rents.”
6. What advice would you give your members and restaurants for the future?
“We are advising them to review their rents and try to get a deal with their landlords plus consider developing their businesses as restaurants with delivery/takeaway but they need to do this carefully to ensure customer service is not compromised (e.g. on-line orders delaying restaurant service etc.).”