A London restaurant owner says he got 654 cancellations in 6 days as Omicron spikes

Tom Kerridge attends the BBC Good Food Show Winter 2019 held at the NEC.
Tom Kerridge attends the BBC Good Food Show at the National Exhibition Centre on Nov. 28, 2019, in Birmingham, England.
MelMedia—GC Images

A London restaurant received 654 reservation cancellations in less than a week as the new Omicron variant sweeps through the U.K.

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, the owner of multiple restaurants, tweeted out a video on Tuesday in which he flipped through pages upon pages of canceled reservations for one of his restaurants, saying they had all been made over the course of six days.  

“I understand why. Public health is THE most important thing. But what will the government do to support the industry? Many places will crumble without help…” Kerridge tweeted. It is unclear which restaurant the cancellations are from. 

Kerridge declined Fortune’s request for comment, but in a radio interview with the BBC, he said that there is no support for the hospitality industry from the U.K. government. 

“If that’s happening to us—busy restaurants with a chef who has something of a public profile— then imagine what’s happening to your local pub, coffee shop, and the small independent restaurant around the corner,” Kerridge wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian on Thursday.

The kind of financial damage that Kerridge revealed in his tweet is already bleeding into the next few months at his restaurants. 

“[January and February bookings are] normally quite strong, particularly in a few of our places. They’re very, very quiet because people are not sure what’s going on,” he told BBC Radio.

UKHospitality, an industry group, predicts a 40% drop in hospitality revenue in December based on the cancellations they’ve already seen, according to The Independent. 

“It’s a very important time for hospitality this time of year, particularly after the last two years, the huge amount of debt that many hospitality businesses are carrying on their shoulders,” Kerridge said to BBC Radio

Kerridge owns multiple restaurants, and in a reply to his own tweet on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he could likely afford a blow like this, while others might not be able to. The flurry of cancellations at Kerridge’s restaurant comes in the wake of rising Omicron cases in the U.K. On Wednesday, just a day after his tweet, a record high of 78,610 new COVID cases were detected, the BBC reported. On Thursday, total Omicron cases rose by 4,671 to 10,017, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency. One health expert estimated 200,000 people are contracting the new variant everyday. 

“We expect [Omicron] to become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours,” U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday. 

The U.K. has already experienced several lockdowns, and last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered people to work from home and wear masks in public. He said he would not be shutting down restaurants, but told people to be cautious about their social plans. 

“We’re not canceling events, we’re not closing hospitality, we’re not canceling people’s parties or their ability to mix. What we are saying is think carefully before you go,” he said, adding that people should consider whether or not they’d put someone at risk and if there would be proper ventilation at the gathering, The Independent reported. 

So what will become of the hospitality industry now that the U.K. is headed into another COVID-19 surge? With no legislation package to help business owners yet, Kerridge and others in hospitality are concerned about keeping their businesses afloat. 

The U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has been on a planned trip to California, but is flying back to the U.K. on Thursday, The Guardian reported. He tweeted that he took virtual calls with people in the hospitality industry on Thursday morning. 

“We’re listening to concerns and will continue to work with them over the coming days,” he wrote. 

Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.

Read More

Great ResignationInflationSupply ChainsLeadership