Lockdown arrives – but not before diners head out in huge numbers

England has joined Wales and Scotland and has been plunged back into lockdown. The move comes following a rise in coronavirus cases nationwide, with the government looking to protect the NHS.

Ahead of the second lockdown, which is due to finish on December 2, restaurants saw a surge in bookings – highlighting, again, the huge support for the industry, and the value the public sees in enjoying life!

Many businesses reported a 25 per cent increase in bookings in the run up to Wednesday. After the roaring success of Eat Out to Help Out, pubs and restaurants reported something of a slump, with reservations shifting to a lower gear.

But when faced with the prospect of lockdown, and no leisure activities of any kind for a month, customers sought to enjoy a ‘last hurrah’ of sorts.

Jack Stein, chef-director of Rick Stein Group, said: “We saw a surge in bookings across the board on Sunday with bookings up 25 per cent from the Sunday before. People are definitely looking to make the most of the few days we have left, which is brilliant.

“Our flagship site, The Seafood Restaurant, is looking particularly busy with only a few late afternoon tables left. We still have some availability in our other sites but it’s filling up fast!”

Gregory Marchand, chef-patron of Frenchie Covent Garden, added: “The increase in bookings ahead of Thursday’s lockdown is astounding. The bookings speak for themselves: Monday last week 38 covers, this week 75. Tuesday last week 32 covers, this week 88. Wednesday last week 31 covers, this week 94.”

Arantxa Fuentes, co-founder of Pluma in Amersham, said: “We were practically fully booked before the announcement, and fully booked every Friday and Saturday night until January! We have people calling for cancellations and a long waiting list – the phone has been going off the hook.”

Charles Harris, founder of Libertine Burger in Warwickshire, added: “We don’t take bookings – only walk-ins – but we’ve had more than 100 emails and Instagram messages enquiring about bookings since the announcement. No doubt we’ll be full until Wednesday night if Monday’s services are anything to go by.”

Alasdair Elwick, general manager of The Forest Side in Cumbria, said: “Our restaurant and hotel rooms were fully booked anyway, but to maximise revenue we decided to open on Wednesday lunchtime when we’re usually closed. Every table was snapped up in under three hours!”

Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-patron of Nutshell in Covent Garden, added: “We’re not usually open Monday to Wednesday, but following the announcement over the weekend, we announced on our socials and newsletter we would be opening especially. We saw about 65 bookings (150 covers) come in for the next few days and are fully booked on Wednesday.”

Brodie Meah, co-founder of Top Cuvée and Shop Cuvée in Highbury, said: “We had a huge wave of bookings over the weekend and planning to drink the bar dry with locals for Wednesday’s goodbye.”

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