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‘You don’t want to be in hospitality at the moment’: Nick Nairn speaks for an industry as chefs react to post-Christmas restrictions

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Celebrity chef Nick Nairn was among those who took to social media to share his feelings, with the managing director of Balbirnie House in Fife anticipating £2 million in losses and industry bosses penning a joint letter to the Scottish Government.

He spoke for an industry with these words on Saturday: ‘You don’t want to be in hospitality at the moment, that’s for sure’.

Now celebrity chef Nick Nairn is offering practical support to those left with a surplus of ingredients at Christmas – or none at all – after a raft of new restrictions were announced in Scotland and across the UK that burst the planned festive socialising  “bubbles”.

On Sunday night he hosted “Dr Nick’s Christmas Culinary Clinic” on his Facebook page, in which he invited questions from followers who were left holding the turkey with fewer guests to cook for – along with those who had not expected to be at home for Christmas.

And he revealed his “Plan K menu” – a reference to the multiple changes of plans that he has had to make at his Bridge of Allan restaurant in response to new restrictions. With most of Scotland moving to Level 4 on Boxing Day, restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway options.

He told his Twitter followers: “If you’ve got dilemmas and you’ve changed your plans and are only cooking for four now, or you’ve bought a turkey and are thinking ‘what can I do with it?’ ‘what’s going to happen to all the stuff that I’ve planned?’, talk to us and we’ll do our best to help you out.

“In the meantime we’re going to come up with Plan K version one which we’ll have ready soon in how we finish up this year.

“You just don’t want to be in hospitality at the moment, that’s for sure.”

Watch  the full Dr Nick’s Christmas Culinary Clinic video below:

Posted by Nick Nairn on Sunday, 20 December 2020

But his sense of despair for an industry already battered by wave after wave of restrictions, as both UK and devolved governments struggle to contain the spread of coronavirus, appeared to be shared by many others working in food and hospitality.

Huge revenue losses

Nicholas Russell, managing director at Balbirnie House hotel in Fife, took to social media to reveal he anticipates £2 million in lost revenue due to the pandemic and the related restrictions on hospitality.

He said: “Our initial lockdown was a £1m hit. Now estimating a further £250k loss, July to end December 2020. New Boxing Day two week lockdown, a further £130k. Total £1.38m.”

Later in the the thread he added: “If taking what has (and is) being accrued with losses, into consideration with what our company would have been forecasted to create in the same timeframe, all the combined implications are heading (to) 2m. One property. With 85 out of 218,000 hospitality and tourism jobs in Scotland.”

“Unemployment will skyrocket”

Stuart McPhee, director of Siberia Bar and Hotel and spokesman for Aberdeen Hospitality Together, spoke out about the restrictions earlier today adding: “Businesses across not just Aberdeen but Scotland will be asking what support is going to be there for us, we have perfectly functioning businesses that play a vital role in raising taxes that pay for public services.

“We are a sector that has seen the least amount of funding come to us out of all the four nations in the UK and I think that needs to be brought back into balance.

“We will need to engage with the furlough scheme to keep staff, but if at the end of the day there are no businesses for staff to be furloughed to, unemployment will skyrocket.”

Calum Montgomery, chef patron of three AA Rosette restaurant Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye has also expressed his frustrations on how the island has been classed as mainland Scotland when deemed appropriate to the Scottish Government.

He said in his Tweet last night: “Isle of Skye had a bridge built in 1995. December 2020 – Skye suddenly classed as mainland Scotland so must adhere to Tier 4 Covid-19 restrictions. Also the Isle of Skye: guaranteed to be charged an additional £25pp (postage and packaging) delivery to islands for the vaccine when its available.”

And he isn’t the only who is struggling with the fact his businesses have been forced to close as a result of the Tier 4 restrictions coming into play.

Graeme Gersok, owner of The Townhouse Hotel in Arbroath took to the company’s Facebook page to announce the closure of the venue which originally sat in Tier 2 and will immediately jump to Tier 4 on Boxing Day.

It read: “So that’s not good news. Seems Angus will jump from T2 to T4 on Boxing Day. This means we shall have to close our doors (once again) for a minimum three week period. Our cocktail and food delivery service will continue.

“I shall have more info for you all once I can process yet another set of changes.
The constant changes are slowly breaking me down… but my staff and I will never give up. Keep the faith…we will meet again.”

A second post added: “To everyone, like me, going into Boxing Day lockdown. Its tough, heart-breaking, and I’m struggling to not cry at the moment. But its going to be ok.

“One day we’ll look back and be ok. And we will love that much harder, and hug that much longer.”

To everyone, like me, going into Boxing Day lockdown. Its tough, heartbreaking, and I’m struggling to not cry at the…

Posted by The Townhouse Hotel Arbroath on Sunday, 20 December 2020

Eatery 16 West End in St Monans which is owned by chef Craig Millar, has been closed while Fife has been in Tier 3 as being unable to sell alcohol makes it a “no-go” according to Craig. However with the announcement of Tier 4 implemented across Scotland, Craig just hopes the region’s cases slow down as soon as possible.

He commented: “When Fife entered Tier 3, that closed our business. Operating the restaurant without alcohol sales for us, and so many others, just isn’t financially viable.

“Our best case scenario would be to break even. We took the decision to close in November because of this. Tier 4 restrictions won’t therefore make an immediate difference to us but a rise in Covid-19 cases is obviously not the direction we want to see the region going in.”

The Scottish Hospitality Group also shared its frustrations with the lack of support for the industry, highlighting how retail has continued to stay open throughout the Tier process and was “ram-packed” on “Mad Friday”, known as one of the busiest days in hospitality.

It read: “Absolutely heart-breaking today where it is traditionally one of the busiest days of December as work places break for Christmas. Retail ram-packed, but hospitality suffers. No customers, little/no support, our sector is dead. What have we done to deserve this Scottish Government? And expected to survive on £67 a day.

“A targeted support package is exactly what is needed. Pocket money payments won’t help safe the sector. We only want to survive, not recoup our lost turnover or profits. Furlough protects staff, but the businesses need protected also, even more so now!

“Hospitality have done everything to remain the safest sector around, so now it is time for Scottish Government and MSP Kate Forbes to dig deep into that £340m to save us after yesterday’s announcement. This is on top of the support due to be released. Not to be confused!”

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink pointed to the combined impact of a national lockdown paired with the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

And he called for Scots to pull together to support food businesses during the new lockdown period.

Trade bosses in additional funding call to Scottish government

Meanwhile, in a joint letter to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, hospitality, food and tourism leaders have called for an “extraordinary” funding package in light of the new even tougher measures coming into effect from Boxing Day.

The leaders of Scottish Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality (Scotland), Scotland Food and Drink, and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said an “upweighted extraordinary package of funding must urgently be identified from within the Scottish and UK budgets to support both our frontline businesses and the supply chains over what will now be a significantly more challenging period than any of us had previously understood or anticipated.”

The letter also raised concerns over the speed financial support is to be made available and its limited availability.

It continued: “Our sector awaits further details of the Scottish Government’s £185m additional funding support announced last week which I believe will be released by the finance minister tomorrow. However, my understanding and concern is that due to the challenges on resources to set in place the application process and for applications to be made –  that once approved –  funds will not likely begin to flow into businesses bank accounts until late February.

“Furthermore I am aware that these additional support packages are primarily targeted at businesses that have to date received little or no support at all and in some cases the grant amount available to certain business types is very limited; some will also be precluded from applying.

“There will be businesses who fall into the latter category who had planned to be open and trading in the days and weeks ahead who will now be further significantly financially impacted by these new restrictions coming into force on Boxing Day and also in need of greater financial help.”

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