Covid Scotland: 'We’ve had 3,000 portions of turkey on order for months' hospitality reeling in avalanche of cancellations

The impact of the changing guidance for hospitality businesses has been brutal and immediate.

Stephen Gow, of The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen
Stephen Gow, of The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen

Stephen Gow of The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, yesterday described the Public Health Scotland statement on Thursday night as “catastrophic” for the sector.

That anxiety only increased following Nicola Sturgeon’s briefing when the ‘cancel Christmas parties’ message was doubled down.

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The Chester is dealing with cancellations affecting its Granite Suite ballroom with capacity of 300 for events and Christmas parties; the IX restaurant with 80 covers; The Gallery Bar with a capacity for food and drink of 70, and a marquee with 70 seats.

“It’s catastrophic for a sector which has already faced so much hardship since March 2020,” said Mr Gow.

“The mixed messages during the week, the announcement by Public Health Scotland and today’s First Minister statement are effectively a closure of the hospitality sector – once again – at their busiest time of the year without any financial support.”

Mr Gow said the lack of financial aid as it remains only advice to cancel Christmas events is what is particularly crippling, as stock is set to go to waste and staff wages still need paid.

"Statements like ‘it would be sensible to defer Christmas parties’ essentially mean ‘don’t’ but do not amount to government regulation meaning, there’s no financial support for businesses.

“When I left work last night, one of our Christmas party events was due to have 263 guests. By 10am today that number had dropped to 18. It could drop further.

"We’ve had more than 900 cancellations over a 48-hour period. And we expect more.

“It’s not the fault of the guests that they’ve had to cancel. But equally it’s not the fault of the hotels, bars and restaurants. Yet, customers are asking, and in some cases demanding, that their deposits and payments are refunded.

“The hospitality sector plans well in advance for Christmas and especially so this year when there have been messages about turkey and champagne shortages.

"We’ve had 3000 portions of turkey on order for months; and that order is just for our banqueting events, not for our restaurant bookings.

"We have a fully stocked bar with kegs of beer which all have sell by dates.

"Our regular band is paid for their residency at our party nights. Our staff are all rotaed for this weekend. The costs of these cancellations are considerable and for some businesses they will be overwhelming.

“These cancellations affect the entire hospitality supply chain and will impact seriously on staff who will no longer have their hours at what is usually our busiest time of the year.

"Perversely, we took more bookings this year than we expected. People seemed determined to celebrate Christmas 2021 in the way they were prevented from doing last year.

"Many businesses have faced challenges since the pandemic start and a Christmas party was their way of thanking their staff for their efforts and fortitude.

"This is not just about work nights out either. Groups of friends were getting together for private dining events.”