Coronavirus: Carluccio’s warns of ‘large-scale closures’

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Carluccio

Hospitality industry bosses have warned that new government restrictions could put firms out of business.

Boris Johnson has urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.

Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said that the restaurant chain “was days away from large-scale closures” without state aid.

Speaking to the Today programme, he called for “immediate” help for the industry from the chancellor.

With consumers increasingly working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurants have already seen footfall declining “on a daily basis”, according to Mr Jones.

He said: “We understand the role we have to play in public health, so I won’t question the government’s advice on that. But to do that to an industry without any fiscal support whatsoever condemns us to death, effectively.”

He added that the government restrictions announced last night meant “we’ll be in a situation where sales start to decline even more rapidly from today onwards”.

The Italian chain, made up of 73 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, saw the largest declines in London, according to its chief executive.

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Celebrity chef and restauranteur Antonio Carluccio founded the restaurant chain

Many industry figures have expressed anger that the prime minister advised people to stay away from social venues while not forcing premises to close. This could have given them financial protection for interruption to their business.

But Mr Jones said: “Insurance is a very lengthy and complex issue, and we need immediate state help in coming days, rather than months.”

He urged new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to stage an “enormous state intervention”, citing measures for business announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Mr Macron reaffirmed unlimited state financial support for business and employees affected by the pandemic.

Other UK firms that have been affected by new coronavirus containment measures include catering giant Compass Group.

The group warned that its half-yearly operating profit would be lower than expected due to steps taken by governments in Europe and the United States. It now expects a loss of revenue of up to 30% across the business.

The UK government is set to announce more financial measures to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday.

The expected announcement comes less than a week after Mr Sunak published his Budget, which set out £12bn of measures for coronavirus support.

To close or not to close?

That is the question facing thousands of theatres, restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs. While the UK government – in contrast to many other countries – has not ordered a shutdown of social spaces in reaction to coronavirus, it has recommended that people don’t go.

That is the worst of all possible worlds according to the trade body, UK Hospitality, whose boss Kate Nicholls described the latest government advice as a potentially catastrophic state of limbo for an industry that employs more than three million people.

Other hospitality industry sources have told the BBC that they fear mixed messages from the government could compromise their ability to claim on insurance policies. Others say the main issue should be providing a financial lifeline to the industry.

Last week, the government announced a support package including a potential tax and business rates holiday along with loans available to affected businesses.

But industry groups have described these measures as inadequate to cope with the current emergency.