The hospitality sector is facing a storm of Covid crisis. Numerous restaurants, pubs, hotels and other businesses are at risk due to the disastrous lockdowns of December 2020, as well as the mixed messages received by the Government this year.

A restaurant consultant working in the trade of restaurants across the nation, I am subject to many worrying stories.

According to one restaurateur, three large companies cancelled Christmas parties at his restaurant within 24 hours. 

In each case, it’s the same story – executives are worried about how their festivities might be perceived on social media.

Employees may contract or transmit the virus to their colleagues. There’s also a greater fear of bad press. This is all about perceptions.

In the wake of frustrating mixed messages from the Government, one restaurateur said three big firms cancelled their Christmas work parties within the past 24 hours (stock image)

After receiving mixed signals from the Government, a restaurateur stated that three major companies cancelled their Christmas party within 24 hours. (stock image).

Whitehall is not providing clear guidance, so bosses tend to be cautious. 

They would happily continue with the parties as they were planned, even if it was not clear from officials.

Instead we are faced with a situation that is absurd. The Prime Minister wants people to “live” their lives, while Therese Cooper (Pensions Secretary) warns there is ‘no snogging in mistletoe’. 

The chief of health protection, Dr Jenny Harries added confusion to the mix by saying that socializing should be avoided ‘when we aren’t really need to’.

It is confusing, vague and frightening. This is why major corporations have decided to cancel all of their reservations. It is a disaster for those restaurants and bars that everybody loves.

Yet, we are in far better shape than last year. Then, there were no vaccines – now, most people have been double-jabbed, with millions already getting their booster.

Christmas is a crucial month in the hospitality business. Business can easily make around a third their annual revenue during December.

This is the best time to be in business. It has been thrown into chaos by Government decisions that often feel as if they were made on the spur of the moment – and which leave everyone reeling. 

The Prime Minister is telling people to 'live their lives' while the Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey (pictured) is warning there 'shouldn't be much snogging under mistletoe'

While the Prime Minister tells people to “live their lives”, Therese Cooper, Pensions Secretary (pictured), warns that there shouldn’t be any snogging beneath mistletoe.

Many are still struggling to get their feet under control after these 20-month closures.

There is also uncertainty about VAT for dining out. It might return to 20% next year, but it’s at 12.5% currently. The end of the Rent Moratorium is expected to occur in March.

All this leaves businesses unable to plan for the future – and in any sector, that can be fatal. The constant problem of staffing: Do managers hire more chefs and front-of-house employees?

Anxiety is also a common feeling among individuals. Customers are holding firm with smaller bookings of tables for four to six people.

Everyone is well aware of the fact that Christmas was almost banned last year due to Covid’s rise. People want to stop that happening again. 

Many may choose to live at home. For example, if you give poor or incoherent guidance on kissing under the mistletoe it could tip this balance.

The worst thing we fear is the return of last year’s ridiculous regulations. At 10:15, diners and drinkers were allowed to go outside and to wander the streets in cold, wet weather.

They went home to host impromptu parties which were far more likely to spread the virus than an orderly environment in a restaurant or pub. 

That was madness, as was the controversy over Scotch eggs – did they constitute a full meal, and if so, could a pub justify serving alcohol to diners who ordered one?

We don’t need any more chaos. Companies are holding on to their fingers. The industry could start to rebound if we are able to get past Christmas and New Years without any more restrictions or fearmongering.

However, many companies are just one step away from bankruptcy.

CODE Hospitality was founded by Adam Hyman.