Rail strikes ‘couldn't come at a worse time' for hospitality

02 December 2022 by
Rail strikes ‘couldn't come at a worse time' for hospitality

Hospitality operators have been hit hard by the train strikes scheduled in the run-up to Christmas, with some reporting that a fifth of their festive bookings have been cancelled.

Kamran Dehdashti and Jamie Hazeel, co-founders of Little Door & Co, which operates four house-party inspired bars in London, said the rail strikes on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December could delay the industry's recovery.

Dehdashti added: "After two years of Covid, the train strikes couldn't come at a worse time for the hospitality industry. We have had multiple cancellations again this Christmas – after two years of severe pain over the festive period – which now makes it a bleak three years for our industry."

Hazeel said: "We don't believe that sufficient attention is being paid to the vast knock-on effects the strikes have for businesses like ours. We are losing significant revenue on our key trading period of the year – not to mention the difficulty of staffing the venues for those who can come."

Philip Inzani, founder of the 80-cover Polo 24 Hour bar, which is located near London's Liverpool Street Station, told The Caterer he had already lost 20% of his Christmas bookings during what should be his "most profitable month".

He said: "This is yet another blow for an industry that is already on its knees. This situation will result in further closures across the board, as reduced profits will not be able to cover the rising costs in running a restaurant.

"We're facing food inflation at 15% and in some cases quadrupled energy costs. With no real help from the government, there is a very dark light at the end of this short tunnel."

Tom Bourlet, head of marketing at the office Christmas party listing site Fizzbox, warned that the uncertainty stoked by the strikes could see businesses face cancellations up until the last minute.

While Fizzbox data showed that 312 office Christmas parties are due to go ahead across the country on 16 December, which is one of the strike days, Bourlet said the company had received multiple messages from employers asking to double check venue details on that date.

He added that 16 December was usually the most popular day for UK office Christmas parties, with 18% taking place on that date.

Last week, industry leaders including Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality, Emma McClarkin of the British Beer & Pub Association, and Michael Kill of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA), denounced the RMT union's decision to strike during the sector's busiest period.

However, some pubs revealed that the impact of the strikes has been negligible, with a spokesperson for Marston's commenting: "The large majority of our pubs are located [in] community and suburban areas, therefore train strikes have minimal impact."

Image: Piyada Jaiaree / Shutterstock

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