Ever since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s government has looked into various ways to curb the spread of the virus. One notable measure implemented earlier this year was the national lockdown where many businesses have incurred massive losses. The industry that has seen the most losses is in the hospitality and gaming industry; the industry where many hotels, restaurants, pubs and casinos operate under.
Despite the U-turn filled reopening schedule, the industry has been resilient as it has seen a slow but steady recovery especially in the land-based or brick and mortar shops. Though businesses under this category are trying their best to recover from the imposed lockdown, the recent rise of COVID-19 cases has prompted the government to implement even stricter measures, hitting the industry and its workforce with another blow.
The measure in question is the UK’s 10 pm curfew. The curfew affects the industry as it mainly applies to restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, and casinos. Despite vocal disapproval of its implementation, the curfew took into effect on 24 September and has been a topic of contention ever since its initial proposal. Even before its implementation, many from the public and the private sector have sided against it. One such person who has commented against its implementation is Michael Dugher, Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive. Dugher stated that despite the government’s good intentions, an implemented curfew would only lead to a negligible impact on COVID numbers while resulting in a devastating impact on the casino industry. He detailed this by saying that a blanket implementation of a 10 pm curfew on businesses would be catastrophic and would lead to permanent casino closures, further stressing that these would certainly result in thousands of job redundancies.
Given the curfew’s implementation, one question is to be asked: What is the current state of the hospitality and gaming industry?
The UK’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has gathered feedback from over 300 night-time business over the curfew’s initial weekend implementation. Its member’s feedback reveals a catastrophic drop in trade, indicating an average drop of 62% compared to previous weeks. The NTIA believes that this massive drop in trade is solely because of the curfew’s implementation. On top of that, the NTIA’s members have also reported that many customers are unwilling to be hampered by the curfew and are seeking alternative venues for their social experience. The association further adds that the systematic closure of businesses at the same time is counterproductive to the government’s desired outcome as overcrowding in dispersal routes and public transport is evident. Given the recovering state of business in this sector, the association also warms that many of these night-time businesses are already at their last legs and that this measure will facilitate the industry’s collapse as many businesses will be unable to sustain mounting financial losses.
Aside from the direct situation painted by the NTIA, another angle where the state of the hospitality and gaming industry can be viewed is through the sales performance of food and drinks. Food and drink sales can be used to paint a partial picture because restaurants, pubs, hotels, and casinos are all venues that sell such products. A partial correlation in regards to overall performance can be made from these numbers.
The CGA, an independent data and research consultancy firm specializing in food and beverage sales, has released data on sales performance following the curfew’s implementation. According to the GCA’s Drinks Recovery Tracker, drink sales performance was positive on 21 September, with a 2% year on year growth. On 23 September, sales were down 33% following the curfew’s initial announcement. Following that, sales were down 45%, 47% and, 46% on Thursday, the curfew’s effectivity date, Friday and Saturday, respectively. The CGA’s food sales data also followed a similar trend. The data was gathered from the firm’s pool of 7,000 managed pubs and restaurants sites, revealing that food sales performed well initially, then fell between 21% – 29% every day, from 23 – 27 September.
The CGA paints a better overall picture of the food and drink trade landscape revealing that the drop in trade performance is now at the same levels seen in July, before the government’s efforts to boost trade performance through its Eat Out to Help Out promotion. It also went on to highlight that pubs continued to perform better than restaurants in drink sales and that restaurants are now facing their worst week since their initial reopening.
The research firm has also pointed out that extra lockdown measures in many parts of the UK have impacted trade in all drinks categories which reflects the heavy impact of the curfew on drinking. Its data shows that sales on beer, wine, soft drinks and spirits fell by 32%, 29%, 32% and 49% respectively.
Given all of these, it is safe to say that the curfew has negatively affected the hospitality and gaming sector. Despite the many foreboding warnings given by both the public and the private sector, the curfew has seen been implemented to the dissatisfaction of many. At the very least, a review on this measure must be conducted as many of the businesses operating in the industry earn 50-70% of their income past 10 pm and these are now operating in the red. If this trend continues these businesses will be forced to either close down or will be forced to make more employees redundant.