Writing in City AM, the CEO for high-end restaurant group D&D London said that while the Government believes it is already offering substantial support through the availability of loans, grants and furlough, it still has an obligation to compensate operators for losses incurred as a result of its decision to shut down the industry.
He suggested the Government withdraw reliefs or introduce a tax on the businesses that have benefited from the miseries of 2020 – supermarkets, online retailers, delivery companies, PPE distributors – as a means of funding a support package for hospitality businesses.
Trade body UKHospitality made a similar call earlier this month after major supermarket chains including Tesco and Sainsbury's returned hundreds of millions in grant support to the Government.
Gunewardena pointed to France and Germany, where closed restaurants were properly compensated, saying the sector would be a 'powerful engine' for driving economic recovery.
He said: “Pubs and restaurants are also vital to the social fabric of the UK. They need to be properly supported. That needs to be our agenda for 2021 as we say goodbye to the fiasco that was 2020.”
Gunewardena said the last week as one of the worst of the crisis, with London being placed into Tier 3 described as a 'sickening blow'.
He said: “We, like many restaurant groups, make some 30% of our annual profits in December. This year we will all lose money. And we face going into the traditionally bleak winter months of January and February not with our coffers full of cash but with increased bank debt.”
The week subsequently turned into a 'genuine horror show' with news Christmas would be even more severely curtailed.
With the industry’s protests about its safety compared to other industries falling on deaf ears, and the infections spiralling, he said the sector has no choice but accept lockdown.
He called for more support to meet fixed costs restaurants must pay even when closed, such as utilities, maintenance, core management, and rents.
“For us that lot adds up to around 20% of normal revenues," he added.
"In a normal month we will make a profit of 10%. But in any month we are closed we lose 20%. And we’ve had five months closed in 2020, with perhaps more to come in 2021. We need to be compensated.”