Scottish hospitality cannot be allowed to fail - Will Becket

How do I tell you about what Scottish hospitality means to me, and likely to you, and to Scotland itself without repeating things that you already know?

The hospitality sector is part of what makes Scotland such an exceptional place to visit, to work, but most of all to live in, says Will Becket
The hospitality sector is part of what makes Scotland such an exceptional place to visit, to work, but most of all to live in, says Will Becket

Because you know what it brings to the economy, you know how many people it employs, you know what impact it has on tourism or on agriculture. You know what it does for Scotland’s reputation.

Hopefully you know that Nicola Sturgeon’s move to close hospitality in the Central Belt while imposing restrictions elsewhere is not just “a short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection”. It feels like a short, sharp action to hospitality as well as businesses across the country that were already struggling have been given a death sentence.

Hopefully you know what effect it will have on livelihoods as more people fall into unemployment. Hopefully you know that many pubs and restaurants were already operating with no reserves of cash and with crippling debts and that many will be unable to afford the 30 per cent costs of putting their staff back on to furlough.

Will Becket, Founder of Hawksmoor

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Hopefully you know that there is no support available for anyone who doesn’t qualify for furlough (and only those who were previously furloughed before 30 June 2020 do), and that the £40m support package announced amounts to around £2000 per hospitality venue in Scotland . . . not enough to cover the basic fixed costs.

I could probably tell you about the blood, sweat, tears and love that go into restaurants in Scotland, which are overwhelmingly small independent businesses, and into the produce that they turn into the things you eat and drink.

I could tell you about my friend Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela, who have grown a business that is one of the best known in all of the UK, which has relentlessly championed Scotland around the world. Amazing people who have built everything with their own hard work, taking on risk and debts while trying to raise a family of four boys.

I could tell you about Roy Brett at Ondine, whose life’s work has made him one of the most respected chefs/restaurateurs and one of the most knowledgeable people about seafood in the country. Or Roberta Hall and her husband Shaun McCarron, whose restaurant The Little Chartroom has suffered so much due to Covid. I could tell you about fishermen, farmers, brewers and we could guess about how they will cope. About how lifelong dreams are turning into waking nightmares.

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I could tell you how difficult it is for people with limited resources trying to constantly work out what this week’s rules are. How absurd it feels to own a burger joint that serves one kind of beer and therefore has to shut, but to have to walk past the open McDonalds across the street every day.

I could tell you that the way to help is, in the words of Tom Kitchin, ‘support the wee guy’ when you think about the food and drink you consume over the coming weeks and months. You can help by engaging with the ethical dilemma and trade-offs that are being debated in Scotland.

It is no exaggeration to say that recent restrictions and their effect on national confidence have eroded the thinnest of profit margins. The majority of hospitality businesses in Scotland are operating with no reserves of cash and with crippling debts. All over the country businesses are failing and people in hospitality are losing their jobs. It gets worse with each passing week.

Scottish hospitality is built on the passion of incredible people. It knits together communities from Govan to Orkney and provides spaces for family, friends, colleagues and strangers to enjoy each other’s company. It raises people’s hopes and spirits while keeping them safe and employs large numbers of workers in every corner of the country.

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Hospitality is part of what makes Scotland such an exceptional place to visit, to work, but most of all to live in. It is part of the fabric of our lives. We cannot let it fail.

Will Becket, Founder of Hawksmoor.

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