Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Restaurant, Coronavirus

We round-up this week's main hospitality news stories including restaurants potentially not reopening until May; the prospect of tighter takeaway restrictions; and MPs debating the creation of a Hospitality Minister.

- Hospitality venues in England may be forced to remain closed for five months​, with the early May bank holiday being touted as a 'realistic' reopening date. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plunged the country back into lockdown last week, with the nation once again ordered to stay at home. Under the restrictions, hospitality businesses are able to continue offering takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-thru and delivery services. When originally announcing the lockdown, Johnson said that the restrictions could be eased by the middle of February 'if things go well'. Now, though, Downing Street is reportedly considering keeping the lockdown in place until late March, with pubs and restaurants forced to remain closed through to the beginning of May. A source told The Sunday Times​: "The May Day bank holiday [1-3 May] is more likely the moment you see pubs reopening."

- Hospitality businesses in England could be banned from offering takeaway and click-and-collect services under tougher lockdown proposals​ being considered by ministers. According to reports, scaling back the use of collection services for restaurants and takeaway, as well as nonessential retailers, was raised as part of the Cabinet sub-committee known as 'Covid O' on Sunday (10 January). One source told The Telegraph​: "The general feedback is that click and collect is not working, people aren’t wearing masks in queues, people are too close to each other." Two others cited takeaway food services and non-essential retail stores, some of which have switched to click and collect to avoid closing during the third lockdown, as areas of concern. 

- A cross-party group of MPs voiced their support for the creation of a Minister of Hospitality​ during a Westminster Hall debate. Led by Labour MP Catherine McKinnell, the debate saw MPs from both sides of the aisle find common ground over the financial hardships currently facing the sector as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. While there will be no direct action as a consequence of the debate, it is hoped the response will encourage Prime Minister Boris Johnson to consider the proposal more seriously. The parliamentary debate was made possible after a petition that launched back in October calling for the creation of a Minister for Hospitality successfully gained 100,000 signatures. By the time of the debate that number had more than doubled, with some 206,000 people having now signed the petition.

- The newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the night-time economy has launched an inquiry into the devastating impact of Covid-19 on British nightlife​. Led by group chair Jeff Smith MP, who worked in the sector for several years in his earlier career as a DJ and events manager, the APPG is calling for evidence from night-time economy businesses, employees, freelancers and consumers to share their views on the challenges facing the sector; its importance to our society and economy; and how nightlife can be reopened. Consultations will run throughout the month of January for a report scheduled to be released in February. The group will also be contacting several night-time economy organisations and representatives from the Government and local authorities to provide written testimony. Evidence for the inquiry can be submitted via an online survey on the NTIA website. To access the survey and submit evidence, click here​.

- PizzaExpress has exited an additional 23 UK sites​, with discussions ongoing at a number of other locations. The group had already closed 74 sites as part of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), which was approved by creditors in September last year as part of a major recapitalisation and restructuring that also saw the business deleverage its debts, provide new liquidity and divest its mainland China business. According to latest accounts published by the company, break rights inserted into the lease agreements that were compromised by the CVA gave landlords the opportunity to terminate leases. As a result an additional 23 sites have been returned to landlords, with discussions ongoing on a number of other sites It currently leaves the group with around 375 UK restaurants. During 2020 approximately 2,400 roles across PizzaExpress' UK business were made redundant. Looking ahead, as part of the group’s 18-month base case scenario of cash flow forecasting, PizzaExpress assumes sales to be 40% lower throughout 2021 with a slow recovery assumed in 2022.

Check below for more of this week's headlines, or click here​.

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