he CEO of Hospitality Action, a charity that supports those working in the service industry, has underscored just how seriously the threat of coronavirus is to the world of food and drink, while simultaneously praising the resilience of the “strong, robust and frankly beautiful industry”.
Speaking to the Standard, Mark Lewis said: “The restaurant trade works to pretty low margins, so it only takes a small dent in traffic and footfall to cause a real issue in terms of cash flow – and clearly, the sorts of drop off that we're seeing is proving terminal for some, which is an absolute tragedy.”
Lewis made his remarks as Hospitality Action began fundraising to provide financial relief for the staff of restaurants, bars, pubs and hotels affected by the global pandemic.
“We are trying to galvanise as many people as possible to raise as much money as possible,” Lewis told the Standard. “I think at the moment, the hospitality industry employs about 3.2 million people, and I think in the midterm that will no longer be the case. There will be businesses that simply aren't able to come back to trading, and that's why it's so important that we help people at that individual level.
“We need to think about the many, many thousands of hospitality workers who are no longer connected to the hospitality business, though they were a week ago.”
Hospitality Action has launched an emergency appeal hoping to raise as much as it can for those affected; contributions can be made at hospitalityaction.org.uk.
The campaign comes in the light of the government’s pledge to grant up to £25,000 to hospitality, retail and leisure businesses affected by the outbreak, with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.
“We're not about knocking the government, we're just about helping people,” Mr Lewis stressed “and I know that a lot of people, a lot of operators around hospitality, will be glad of the breaks and the loans and the other support promised to them.
“But I think at the same time, there are people who have lost much or all their income and aren't able to pay rent or pay to put food on the table for their families. So what we're trying to do, in our own small way, is to raise as much as we can to support as many people as we can.
“We are trying to galvanise as many people as possible to raise as much money as possible so we can award crisis grants to people who have worked around the industry but are now struggling with dire poverty issues.”
Despite the dour circumstances surrounding the campaign, Mr Lewis maintained praise for the industry itself: “It's a strong, robust industry, it's beautiful the UK hospitality industry, and it looks after its own – so I know it'll do its very best for its wider family.”
Donations to the fund can be made at hospitalityaction.org.uk