The year of the ? Chefs and restaurateurs on what they want to see in 2021

By BigHospitality

- Last updated on GMT

Chefs including Mark Birchall Tommy Banks Paul Ainsworth and restaurateurs on what they want to see in 2021

Related tags: Chef, Paul Ainsworth, Mark Birchall, Tommy Banks, Restaurant, Will Beckett

With the Government due to announce its budget on Wednesday (3 March), we asked chefs and restaurateurs what they'd like to see 2021 bring.

Chris Yates, managing director, Cafe Murano

Hospitality has been treated awfully throughout 2020. The campaign for a minister for hospitality is vitally important. Property costs (rent and rates) in central London are unsustainable. This crisis and the impact on high streets should lead to revision of business rate structure and the commercial lease model. Fixed rents with five-yearly upward only reviews should be a thing of the past. During 2020 many sensible landlords have moved to turnover rents to support tenants and this has to be the model for the future of commercial leases.

Roland Horne, CEO and founder, WatchHouse coffee

All operators and landlords will likely stress the imperfection in the Business Rates regime by way of taxing the high street. These were incredibly out of kilter (in both directions not only just too expensive) and therefore the Government will need to relook at how this should be exacted going forward. Our fear borne out of the need to clear the Government debt is a slow ramping back up to the old levels will already leave a seriously wounded high street in a position of peril. The flip side is if the Government gets this right, it could foster the ability for new turnover rent only operators looking to innovate and create value in a similar way pop-ups did over the last 10 years. On the opportunities side, as an operator we are seeing a lot of great possibilities previously out of our commercial reach come to market. Landlords who are excited about their schemes and want good, clever and sustainable operators with a good offering are actively in the market. Other changes we would like to see is a safe and orderly transition from furlough into the summer of 2021 to allow operators to slowly reopen their businesses, a cliff-edge approach on the basis that the vaccine is out, the infection rates are down but crucially tourists/students and office workers still not being back will be problematic for operators and landlords alike. Therefore a graduated approach would be extremely welcomed.

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Katie and Rick Toogood, founders Prawn on the Lawn and Barnaby’s

We’d like to see some support from the Government in terms of helping businesses pay their rent. We have a restaurant in London and our rent, like many others, is so high that in the current climate it’s almost impossible to make a profit - it’s sad as a lot of amazing independent restaurants and food businesses will not survive without this support. It would be great if the VAT break for hospitality continues too. We hope that a lot of people will consider a Uk staycation this year to help support businesses relying on tourism as well as supporting their local shops and restaurants in order for them to get through these tough times. We’ve been involved in the Seat at the Table campaign to try and appoint a UK hospitality Minister so we hope that this happens so our precious industry gets the voice and support it deserves.

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Will Beckett, co-founder, Hawksmoor

I’d just like to see the hospitality industry make people happy again and be the place where people reconnect with loved ones and their old lives. And I’d like the Government to give the industry, and more crucially its workforce, the respect it deserves.

Loic Leguay, group executive chef, Bone Daddies

I just want to see people enjoying restaurants again safely. Whether that be as a guest or from our perspective as operators. We’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic collaborators in 2020 and work together to support the industry we’re all passionate about. Creating great food, with great produce and people enjoying it is really all it’s ever been about. I want to create more opportunities and development for people in the food team here at Bone Daddies and work with them all to continue to grow and refine our offering. I think it’s a good time to try out something a little more wild and wacky, so you will see a few interesting things out there pretty soon. I also want to focus on our value as it’s probably still going to be a financially difficult year for a lot of people out there.

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John Devitt, co-founder, Koya

The government is already doing great work with improving outdoor dining and street trading in London, but this is all temporary at the moment. I would love to see it making this more permanent and extending past September 2021- there’s a great opportunity here to make London more pedestrianised, increase outdoor dining and improve the street scene with a low traffic approach, particularly in Soho, its central hub. It’d be nice to see the Government empowering local councils to make these decisions themselves. We’d hope that our trade will be back to 80% - 85% by end of summer, and it’ll be key for the restaurant industry if social distancing ends by late summer, coming into winter months. If we’ve learnt anything from the past lockdowns, it’s that once lockdown ends, everyone wants to get out to restaurants again as quickly as possible. I think this will happen yet again, but perhaps even more so as we’ll likely have the vaccine up and running by then. I don’t think things will return to normal until 2022, so it seems likely that outdoor dining and takeaway will still be key to restaurants surviving until then, and beyond.

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Mursal Saiq, co-founder, Cue Point BBQ

I would like a clearer path of support for hospitality industry, I would like to know which direction our hospitality industry is going and whether it will ever return to what it used to be. Do we need to adapt our businesses permanently and forget the old ways in which we catered? Will events be back, and will they be the same as before or again very different? I’d like for the creative and hospitality industries to come back like they never have before. I want Cue Point to adapt into the business it has been growing into; we have some surprises in store next year.

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Colin Clague, executive chef, Ruya

We need somebody in government looking after the hospitality industry; it shouldn’t be a request it should be a demand. We are the third biggest employer in the UK with no representation, it cannot continue. Also, furlough needs to be looked at immediately, the Government needs to pay on salary, not basic as most staff wages are made up by tronc, service, tips etc - just paying out on basic will never be enough to feed families and pay rents and mortgages.

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Aji Akokomi, founder, Akoko

The industry has suffered a great deal in the last year but once all the lockdowns and tiering is over, hospitality businesses will bounce back as the industry is dynamic and already familiar with the need to evolve as new trends emerge. Critically, the customer base is still there. I expect the diners that have been forced to shield and stay away for so long to be keen to celebrate their freedom by going to restaurants en-mass. I would like to see the hospitality industry represented in parliament. We need a seat at the table, someone to speak for us when the doors are closed.

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Tommy Banks, chef-patron, The Black Swan at Oldstead, Roots

A dedicated Minister for Hospitality is crucial. We need a seat at the table and deserve one. The sector needs further assistance - a long term plan while the vaccine is rolled out.  A lot of people have really supported local businesses and gone out of their way to do so and I really hope that continues even when we’re back up and open. One of the top priorities for 2021 will be sustainability. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, I think 2020 would have seen a lot more initiatives being launched. We can’t compromise anymore and it needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds moving forwards. Michelin’s new sustainability icon is incredible and will put the right pressure on businesses.

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Taiji Maruyama, head chef and business partner, TAKA and MARU

We definitely need more support from the Government. We need an extended business rates holiday and understanding from landlords. There will definitely be changes of people’s mindsets to contend with. Will more people be inclined to stay at home even after the pandemic? The way people engage with restaurants has changed, through takeaways and meal kits and this will continue to grow and transform people’s relationships with restaurants. Right now, we need to survive, hold on to our team and make sure everyone is safe. Opportunities are always there and always will be. We just need to be smart about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and always have a positive mindset, then together we can get through this challenging time.

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Paul Ainsworth, chef-patron Paul Ainsworth at No 6, The Mariners

This year has put a real spotlight on hospitality. Not only have we petitioned for a dedicated Minister for Hospitality, but we’ve raised awareness around topics such as no-shows, our suppliers and the importance of the supply chain. I think it’s incredible that consumers across the country can now buy the meat and fish we serve in the restaurants. I do believe that there is a new found respect for our industry and the people that work in it, and I hope it continues.

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Mark Birchall, chef-patron, Moor Hall

I’d like to see more support for the smaller local restaurants like we’ve started to see during lockdown, with people buying vouchers and really appreciating what they have on their doorstop. Government support for the hospitality industry is obviously of big importance and campaigns like the one for a Minister for Hospitality are crucial. We’re an incredibly diverse industry, so it’s so important that each part of it is recognised and the message as one isn’t diluted. 2021 for us will be the year for development, refining what we already do and adding more to it, like the new rooms we will be building on the grounds later this year, similarly The Barn was making great headway before the last lockdown and I’d like to see that continue and evolve.

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