The London 2012 Olympics have so far failed to bring the benefit of extra trade to restaurants in London’s West End and City areas with some actually reporting a sales drop of up to 70 per cent.
With workers, residents and non-Olympic visitors heeding advice from Olympic organisers to stay away from potentially busy areas, restaurants without Olympic venues close by are suffering and not benefitting from the extra trade they forecasted.
Lucy Knowles, managing director of Corney & Barrow, which operates 11 bars and restaurants in the City, said business was ‘noticeably dire’.
She said: “The city is much quieter than usual. I think people are being told to work from home or to take holiday. August is notoriously quiet in the city anyway. But it’s noticeably quieter. Without a shadow of a doubt, a lot of hospitality businesses in London will see a decline in trade.
“About six or eight months ago, I was thinking ‘here we go, let’s coin it in!’ But it’s been the complete reverse.”
Edmund Farrow, manager at Tibits in London, who prepared his business to keep it moving along well during a potentially chaotic time , has sent two messages to London Mayor Boris Johnson asking him for his help in getting more people to the capital.
He said: “We were very well prepared and had done everything asked of us and more, but it seems that preparation work has been done in vain.
“As of last Friday when we had the Opening Ceremony, business has been really low. Saturday and Sunday were awful and this week has been dead. We’re about 50 per cent down on what it would be normally.
“It’s not just us, all the restaurants and bars in Heddon Street where we are are saying the same thing.
“My feeling is people have been frightened away by the travel warnings that and just aren’t coming out. I’ve asked the Mayor if he could do something quickly and let everyone know that London is accessible, because this is dreadful.”
Luigi Lavarini, chief executive of the 13-strong, recently re-launched Italian restaurant group Spaghetti House, told BigHospitality there had been a 'heavy downturn' in business across the estate both during and in the build-up to the Olympics, while Restaurant Association chairman Richard, the Earl of Bradford, said sales were down by as much as 70 per cent year-on-year across the two Covent Garden restaurants – Porters English Restaurant and Covent Garden Grill – he owns.
“We hope that there might be a change of tack at the Mayor's office as the trains and the Tube seem to be unusually empty at the moment, so why are they still trying to discourage people from coming into Central London, a warning that is clearly being heeded?,” he wrote in response to BigHospitality's pre-Olympics story .
Pubs showing Olympics
Although many restaurants in the West End and the City are suffering, it appears that many pubs, particularly those supporting the Olympics by showing the Games on screens, are doing well.
Bar operator Drake & Morgan, which operates five bars in the City and Southwark and is showing the Olympics on large screens reported strong sales so far, despite the City being quiet on the whole, while ETM Group's Docklands pub The Gun, which is 15 minutes away from the Olympic Park and close to Excel, said it had been 'exceptionally busy' so far.
The British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds told BigHospitality's sister website the Publican's Morning Advertiser that there had been 'no complaints, no concerns and no issues' from its members in relation to the Olympics and indicated that many, particularly those showing the event were seeing a boost to trade.