Angela Hartnett: “Our industry is the third biggest employer in the country – there will be knock on effects.”

The Staff Canteen

‘We need facts and accurate information from the government on every level’, that was the opening statement from Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett as she appeared on last night’s Question Time to discuss the impact of the Coronavirus on hospitality businesses.

She admitted that she had closed her four restaurants, forcing her to ask 140 members of staff to go on unpaid leave.

“I’ve done this for a few reasons, one is the information coming from the government. There are so many rumours – will London be on lockdown? I employ a lot of foreign staff so I wanted them to have the opportunity to go home.

“Two, when the Prime Minister stood up in the press briefing and said don’t go to pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants – that decimated our business. Seventy, eighty percent of bookings were just knocked off.”

What about staff?

Angela is in daily contact with her staff but says it’s a waiting game, expalinig: “We need initiatives from the government. It’s fantastic that the Chancellor gave us billions and billions of pounds, but what we need now is the laws or however the government does it, to say landlords must give us a three month rent free period.

“They need to say they are going to pay every single person in the hospitality sector a £1k a week or a month to sustain and cover their rent in this period. These people are on low income, it was bad enough when as an industry we were called unskilled labour and unskilled workers. These people have to pay rent, they have families to support, they have bills to pay.”

She added: “Our industry is the third biggest employer in the country – there will be knock on effects.”

Are loans useful?

At the beginning of the week the Governement said that loans would be available for businesses but many people are unclear as to who is eleigable and jow to accesss them.

Angela said: “We need to know banks will back up these loans because when I’m talking to them they don’t seem clear on how things are going to work so we need information.

“It’s a double edge sword, we have now closed our restaurants because we feel it’s best for our stuff, our customers and health and safety but there is no income coming through so we’ll have a real struggle when we open up again. When we do there is going to be a cash flow issue and we won’t just get customers straight back. So, do I want to get a loan of half a million or a million pounds?

“If I take that loan do I have two years to pay it back? If yes then I can seriously say, fantastic, I can pay my staff for three months now.”

She was joined on the show by Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, who said: “I just get a sense of a real need for certainty and detail.

“Cashflow is a real problem, if you are living on the edge you have to take decisions and you need to be able to access these loans quickly.”

She added: “The Government can’t just bail out boardrooms they’ve got to bail out workers.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th March 2020

Angela Hartnett: “Our industry is the third biggest employer in the country – there will be knock on effects.”