We’ve done it! Hospitality has smashed through two major milestones. First, the opening of terraces to much excitement. And now, the full big opening.
The terraces went with a bang. Weather permitting, outside dining all over London and beyond was booked out. Not just one turn of covers day and night either, but multiple day parts and evening turns. Their popularity also meant spend has rocketed. Celebrating our new-found freedoms has brought with it a desire to indulge, so much so that some would say this could be a honeymoon period.
Ironically, London is actually very short on dedicated terraces in more normal times. Thankfully, however, with the help of big estate owners and sympathetic councils, we have seen massive street closures to allow some of our busiest traffic thoroughfares to become pedestrianisation alfresco dining destinations, the likes of which we have never seen before.
Fingers crossed this new-found flexibility becomes a permanent feature of the West End and other parts of the capital.
Notwithstanding the rush to the terraces, chasing the experience has taken a different turn. As is so often the case, the hard to pivot high-end sector, which was very exposed to the worse economic effects of the pandemic, is now benefiting from the pent-up demand for a good time.
Other sectors are performing well too. In the best shopping centres, where footfall is strong for the experience offered, all dining is oversubscribed. I for one would be very happy to take a break from a shopping trip for a bowl of comforting noodles.
This week, however, has been a little more curious for the casual dining sector on the high street. Much of the excitement of going out to eat has passed its frenzy and the pizazz is much more scattered, not unlike the showers that have plagued us all for too long.
While London in particular has for some time been fickle, with fashionistas chasing the next opening, this time it is far more unpredictable and fluid. What is needed is a return to a steady tempo and habits reforming. Like anything in life, it is all about a happy medium.
We are back in the West End and loving city life again. London feels more alive every day, even if by just a little. That said, none of us can wait for things to return to something much closer to the normal we once all took for granted.
A settled hospitality sector is long overdue.
Ted Schama is managing director at Shelley Sandzer