Train strike ‘could cost the hospitality sector more than £1.5bn’ as sales plummet

The hospitality sector could lose more than £1.5 billion in sales due to rail strikes amid the pandemic of canceled bookings and footfalls.

Some areas have reported a decrease of at least 40 percent in the past week, usually the busiest week of the year for office parties as well as the peak period for Christmas shopping.

Pubs and restaurants in central London fell to almost half their pre-Covid levels during last week’s strike and businesses are bracing for further disruption at the start of the new year.

Kate Nicholls, 52, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said rail strikes throughout December could cost hospitality businesses £1.5bn in sales. “The most serious impact we are seeing now is on consumer confidence and the increased cancellations businesses are seeing as a result of the strike,” she said.

David Moore, 58, owner of Pied à Terre, London’s longest-running Michelin-starred restaurant, said: “Last week was a disaster. This would usually be our busiest week, but only Thursday [a non-strike day] Was busy.”

He said that the previous week had fallen by more than a third of his expectation, with a total loss of sales of £30,000. He said, “We are probably £100,000 short of all the train attacks so far, but of course there are many more to come.” Large corporate bookings failed because the office staff didn’t bother to try to make it work, while the World Cup kept potential customers away from the restaurant.

One of the few positives, Moore said, was the return of tourists, with American and French visitors particularly noticeable. They solved the staff shortage a few weeks ago by advertising for staff mainly in Ireland.

Shops are also suffering, with the British Retail Consortium saying they are losing billions of pounds due to a 21.5 per cent drop in shopper numbers across the country last week.

A rail union is planning further strikes from 24 to 27 December, which puts a last-minute ban on Christmas Eve shopping and family visits. The strike has also been scheduled from 28 to 29 December and most of the duration from 3 to 7 January.

Sarah Willingham, 48, chief executive of Nightcap, the quoted owner of 36 bars, said: “After three stolen Christmases and the economy on its knees, the government must not allow this to happen.”

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