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New variant bears down on hopes of buoyant festive trade

Published:  15 December, 2021

The enforcement of ‘Plan B’ rules continues to dampen spirits across the sector this festive season, as a growing number of venues report mass cancellations.

As reported by many in various corners of the trade over the past week, including Twitter, businesses are suffering from cancellations as uncertainty hits. 

Chef Tom Kerridge reports that 654 guests have cancelled since Plan B was announced at just one restaurant, stating “Many places will crumble without help…”

In addition, several high profile concerts due to take place in 2021 at Cardiff's Principality Stadium have been pushed back to next year, causing pain for local businesses.

Owner of the Bar 44 group Owen Morgan reported on social media that: “Mass hysteria has set in. 60 cancellations now…. for tonight! Parties cancelling for the next two weeks also.”

A new survey from CGA Strategy and Fourth has revealed that prior to the announcement, businesses were cautiously optimistic about their prospects in 2022.

The poll of multi-site business leaders was conducted shortly before the new Plan B restrictions were announced. When the survey was conducted, nearly three in five (59%) leaders felt optimistic about prospects for the general market over the next 12 months, up by one percentage point on September.

The survey pointed to reasonable trading in the fourth quarter so far, with four in five (80%) businesses making a profit – up by 11 percentage points since the third quarter. However, a third (33%) are making a lower profit than they were before Covid-19, while 13% are only breaking even and 8% making a loss. Current consumer nervousness however, and reports of Christmas party cancellations even before the news of Plan B, puts even this slow recovery in jeopardy.

There was a similarly mixed picture on growth plans. Just over two in five (42%) businesses planned to open new sites in the next 12 months, but just as many (43%) said they would not.

Karl Chessell, CGA’s director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, commented: “These figures show that leaders were optimistic about the long-term future of hospitality, but the small movements between the third and fourth quarters suggest that trading had not got easier.”

He added: “The Plan B restrictions are denting confidence at the worst possible time and comes on top of a host of challenges around staffing, supply and rising costs. It is a reminder that hospitality is not out of the woods yet. Many businesses remain extremely vulnerable and will need sustained support from government in the months ahead.”