The Economist reports that those businesses which make it through the upcoming rent crunch will find October brings colder weather and fewer customers. Current government rules allow members of up to six households to gather outdoors, but only groups of two households to meet indoors.
That is in addition to ongoing worries. Social distancing measures have reduced capacity at most venues. Nine in ten hospitality businesses are operating at 80% or less; half are operating at 50% or less. City-centres remain deserted, wreaking havoc on venues that rely on commuters and office-workers. According to Nick Mackenzie, the boss of Greene King, a brewer that also runs some 2,700 pubs, trading is down by an average of 20% overall, rising to 65% in central London and 80% in the City of London.
Another headache is data protection: most venues are taking customers’ details to help the government’s test-and-trace efforts, but some are doing it sloppily, for example by leaving an open register on the counter than anyone can photograph. Still, the industry has been fortunate that no big new outbreaks have been traced to pubs or restaurants. Consumer confidence, like the industry’s recovery, is a fragile thing.