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By Richard Vines @Richardvines More stories by Richard Vines October 17, 2020, 2:00 AM EDT The restaurant industry in Europe and the U.K.had a near-death experience in the spring and summer.In fact, many establishments—including posh spots like The Ledbury and Le Caprice in London—didn’t make it through.Government subsidies and job retention programs helped keep much of the rest alive.
However, as restrictions are reimposed to tamp down a severe surge of Covid-19, the nightmare may be recurring —just when many places had tentatively figured out how to welcome back customers.
In the U.K., daily infections stood at nearly 20,000 on Oct.14, compared with less than 400 on a day in early July, about the time the first full lockdown ended.
The government has now selectively imposed different tiers of lockdowns throughout the country.London is now in Tier 2: Restaurants aren’t allowed to accept groups of customers from more than one household—and each group can only be a maximum of six people.
“It is incredibly frustrating,” says Jyotin Sethi, co-owner of the JKS Restaurant Group (which includes Lyle’s , Flor , Gymkhana , and Berenjak , among several others).“We are going to have to deal with the stop-start, changing guidelines, a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, circuit breaker lockdown for the next six months with no confirmed government support.” He tries to put a stoic frame on the situation.“The well-financed restaurants will survive and find a way through, but a number won’t,” he says.
“The guys who have prepared for a longer period of downturn will find a way through.You have to be flexible, have to try new things, the goalposts will be constantly moving.”
“We are going to lose tables of four and sixes coming from separate households,” says Isaac McHale, chef of Clove Club , a perennial on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.“Prior to that, we were losing less money than when we were closed.”.