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Major restaurant groups close as coronavirus bites

Published:  18 March, 2020

D&D London and Wolseley have become the latest major on-trade coronavirus casualties with both having announced they are temporarily closing its restaurants with immediate effect.

The announcements from D&D London, the owners of Le Pont de La Tour, Quaglino’s and Coq d’Argent, and Wolseley owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott, come hot in the heels of other restaurateurs, including Hawksmoor and Mowgli, closing their sites on a temporary basis following Boris Johnson urging the public to stay away from pubs, clubs and restaurants in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading.

The Carluccio’s chain meanwhile warned earlier this week that it was only days away from major restaurant closures.

Des Gunewardena, chairman and CEO of D&D London, which operates 38 restaurants in London, Leeds, Manchester as well as in Paris and New York, said: “We fully understand the need to play our part in defeating the spread of Coronavirus and the safety of our staff and customers is of course of paramount importance.”

The group had to similarly close its restaurants in New York and Paris, he added.

“Nevertheless it is a desperately sad day for us and for other UK restaurants who also face closure. Our number one priority now is to work closely with government bodies to ensure that the welfare of our staff and their families is managed through this period of uncertainty. We hope the government steps up to the challenge.”

Hawksmoor, which owns six restaurants in London in addition to two more in Edinburgh and Manchester, said it had to “end the employment of some wonderful people” as part of the “difficult decisions” circumstances had forced owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott to make.  

“We have tried to treat those people as fairly as possible, paying full notice and we are trying to give them every guidance on how they can get extra support during these difficult times.” 

“We have also told them that what has happened today doesn’t prevent them in any way from being part of the company again in the future." 

Earlier this week, the group postponed the opening of its New York restaurant, its first location outside the UK. 

Yesterday the government announced a £330bn support package to support businesses, but it is unlikely to prevent hospitality firms from having to temporarily or permanently closing sites.

This morning, Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group predicted an overall decline in like-for-like sales of 25% in FY2020 as it has experienced an “increasing and material impact” of Covid-19 in recent weeks.

Revolution Bars meanwhile announced this morning that it will have to reduce payroll costs, unprofitable trading sessions and variable costs such as entertainment and door staff to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

The group said it had experienced a decline in revenue in the very recent days and that it expected a material deterioration in trading performance for the rest of the financial period following the government’s recent announcements.

In addition to the reductions, other measures include a suspension in rent and deferral of business rates, and requests to defer PAYE and VAT payments.

Whilst the group welcomed the government’s support for the business rates holiday announced yesterday, it said it “does not go nearly far enough”.

“At this difficult time, we are doing all we can to protect our business and our employees from the Covid-19 virus and any financial hardship its effects may have,” said CEO Rob Pitcher.

“We would welcome further government support,” he added.