Calling something ‘safe’ hardly makes it sound exhilarating
Ok, yes, the name makes it sound like a really dull prequel to The Magnificent Seven, but this is actually a savvier piece of marketing than it first appears.
What’s it all about then?
Every Thursday from next week (17 September), all 19 reopened Gaucho and M restaurants across the UK will begin taking a limited number of bookings at 6pm each night, offering diners a three-course menu where each dish is £6. The menu, which has been designed by group culinary director Mike Reid, will feature a starter of seabass ceviche; churrasco cut of prime Argentine steak for the main; and chocolate brownie sundae for dessert.
So it’s a ploy to get more bums on seats?
In essence, yes, but its positioning is very astute. Gaucho group CEO Martin Williams describes it as a menu ‘that celebrates visiting restaurants once more’. “We assisted the cabinet office in making restaurant venues Covid secure – now we want to support the safe dining for six,” he says. “Although it seems as though the new measures are restrictive, in many ways they are liberating and will allow indoor dining beyond your family or bubble.”
What sort of impact is the ‘rule of six’ likely to have on restaurants?
Let’s just say it’s unlikely to offer any benefits. While Williams is right that individuals will now have more freedom to mingle between households, they will also be forced to socialise in smaller groups; and restaurants will be legally obligated to turn away larger groups at a time when, for most, trade has dropped through the floor. Consumer confidence is likely to take a hit too, with Stosie Madi, chef patron of Lancashire gastropub Parkers Arms, saying yesterday (9 September) that her bookings had taken 'a hammering' after the new limits were announced. And what's more, it also has the potential to further hamper the return of office workers, which is already having a dire impact on trade for many restaurants, particularly in the capital.
How long is the new rule likely to last?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said today (10 September) that it will not be kept in place any longer than is necessary. Although criticism is already growing both inside and outside Westminster at the ‘broad brush’ nature of the rule. Christopher Snowdon, head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, told the Daily Mail that the Government had ‘over-reacted’ by bringing it in. He said: “I think the Government has maybe decided to bring in this 'rule of six' because it will have a smaller economic impact than closing pubs or schools, but there will be an economic impact. I know the hospitality industry is very concerned. [They] are still trying to balance the economy and risk to some extent, but they got the balance wrong.”