Thursday, June 24, 2021
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Business optimism ‘at highest level since 2015’, major survey reveals as London restaurants see bookings soar


UK business optimism is at its highest level since 2015, according to a major new survey of UK business leaders.

The Accenture/IHS Markit survey found two-thirds of 1,400 UK (68%) polled now expect activity to increase this year.

Corporate spending plans are at their highest since the pandemic began, with companies intending to step up investments in technology and staff.

Hotels and restaurants moved from the least confident service category in October 2020 to by far the most optimistic last month.

It came as London hospitality bosses said they are seeing huge numbers of reservations for the weeks following April 12 – the date the Prime Minster has pencilled for the re-opening of al fresco dining and beer gardens.

Des Gunewardena, boss of fine dining group D&D London, which is behind London institutions including Quaglino’s and the Bluebird cafes, labelled the level of forward bookings the group is seeing as “extraordinary” – with around 50,000 reservations already taken.

He said: “Our bookings are double the level of bookings we had on the first day of reopening after lockdown last July, and we are still a full month ahead of reopening.”

Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the Inception Group – which counts Bunga Bunga, Mr Fogg’s and Cahoots among its roster – said that there is “clearly huge pent up consumer demand”.

“Bookings have been really busy, it’s really encouraging so far,” he said. “We wish we had more outside space and now just hope April showers aren’t on the way.”

Sam Harrison, founder of Hammersmith restaurant and waterside terrace, Sam’s Riverside, said that within a few hours of opening booking lines last Thursday the site had “over 2000 bookings – and that has continued”.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, has warned that April is “not a reopening at all, for much of the sector”, however.

She said: “We need to remember that nearly 60% of hospitality businesses don’t have outdoor areas and many that do only have small spaces.”

From May 17, restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor seating to diners from two households or groups of up to six people.

Rachel Barton, Strategy & Consulting lead at Accenture UK & Ireland, said that the survey’s findings that business leaders across sectors are planning to both hire and invest is is “a good early sign” – but warned that “we need to see more if the recovery is to be sustainable”.


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