Amid the novel Coronavirus outbreak and global lockdowns, the popular bakery chain Greggs, is set to join the league of several other food retailers by closing its outlets temporarily, effective from 24 March, in order to adhere to the lockdown and maintain social distancing. Greggs has more than 2 thousand outlets, with around 25 thousand employees in the United Kingdom.
There are various other restaurants and cafes which have closed their outlets in view of the spread of Covid-19, which include McDonald's Corp, Nandoâs, Costa Coffee, KFC, Pizza Express and Subway. McDonald's Corp in the United Kingdom was finding it difficult to operate Drive-Thru and takeaway restaurants while maintaining safe social distancing. Considering the wellbeing and safety of its employees and in the best interest of all its stakeholders, the company had recently decided to temporarily close all Ireland and the United Kingdom restaurants. The company would be closing around 1,270 outlets in the United Kingdom, which shall affect 135 thousand employees. However, the Hamburger chain assured full-time employees for their compensation.
Another popular global food chain, Nandoâs will close its restaurants temporarily in the United Kingdom until normalcy has prevailed. The Peri-Peri spice founder is a South African restaurant chain known for its Portuguese cuisine. Founded in the late 1980âs, the restaurant has a presence in 30 plus nations with more than 1000 outlets.
The 55-year old pizza company, Pizza Express, with 400 plus stores in the United Kingdom has announced to close all its outlets. The company is closed for dine-in, takeaway and delivery. Â The chicken chain, KFC, would be shutting down its 900 restaurants from 25 March onwards until normalcy prevails. The popular coffee chain has already shut its 2 thousand outlets effective from Monday. However, in the best interest of the nation, outlets located in hospitals will continue to serve hot coffees to all the NHS (National Health Service) workers for the next two weeks. Another coffee chain, Starbucks, has completely closed its outlets by the end of last week.
Founded in 1996, Eat, the sandwich chain owned by Pret Manger has announced that it would be closed permanently due to heavy losses further exacerbated by the novel Coronavirus crisis. The announcement came amid the government restrictions enforced on social distancing. The majority of the companyâs outlets were in London. However, in Paris Gare du Nord and Spain, the franchise partners shall continue to operate. The 24-year old company was already under mounting heavy losses. The companyâs revenue was down by 4 per cent to Â£94.9 million. The company incurred a loss of Â£17.3 million in the fiscal year 2018.
Another global sandwich chain, Subway has closed its outlets in the United Kingdom since 23 March. In a goodwill gesture, the company would extend support and donate to the people on national duty over the next few days.
Earlier this week, amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the British government urged its people to refrain from going out to attend mass gatherings, public and entertainment squares. In the meantime, popular food retailers started halting their operations while continuously monitoring the development of the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on market conditions. The restaurants were allowed to operate takeaway services. Most of the restaurants including Gregg, were providing their customers with takeaway services. The restaurants were taking coronavirus precautions, ramping up their cleanliness efforts within the store, preparing for the extreme situation and forming crisis groups. Several restaurants started using tamper-proof container for orders. McDonaldâs, the US based restaurant chain had sent out advice to its restaurants contemplating providing hand sanitizers to employees as well as to the customers.
But in the latest, British Prime Minister announced a complete lockdown of the nation for three-week, prohibiting people from leaving their houses or gathering in groups of more than two person. All non-essential shops will have to close, as on 24th March 2020. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, urged its people to stay safe and stay indoors. The British government will send letters and messages to 1.5 million people who are at most risk of coronavirus to stay at home and remain indoors for 12 weeks. The British Prime Minister has asked the public to cooperate in the interest of the nation and observe self-isolation. With Italy being the worst hit, Mr. Johnson has said that the United Kingdom is only 2 or 3 weeks behind. This move by the British government came just after it has asked the cafes, pubs, gyms, entertainment squares and restaurants to shut shops.
According to the World Health Organisation, the confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the globe, now exceed 334,981, along with over 14,500 deaths in more than 180 countries. In UK death toll sharply rose to 335, and there were more than 6,100 confirmed cases reported. The WHO (World Health Organisation) has already declared it aÂ pandemic, and the UK government had been pushing to impose social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It has said that the British government understands the quantum of the damage caused and will do whatever it takes to secure people's lives, to their jobs and to their businesses. Due to this pandemic, the UK government has announced that it would pay the salaries of employees who would incur loss of pay.
Due to the novel Coronavirus, the consumers had cut their eating out and started to consume food at home as it is considered much safer and in line with the social distancing policy enforced by the British government. But for the restaurant owners, it has become a double whammy, while they were struggling with the reduced demand, they are to maintain the staff. Though at present it is not possible to quantify the potential impact of the outbreak. Given the current economic scenario, the companies are following the directives issued by the government in the area of operations and prioritising the health and wellbeing of their employees. Numerous food chains and High Street retailers such as Ikea, John Lewis and Next have already halted their operations in order to protect the wellbeing of their staff and customers. However, in this unprecedented hour of crises, there are retailers which can stay open. These majorly include the Supermarkets, Gas stations, Pharmacies, Home & Hardware stores, Post Offices and Banks. In addition, online business shops can still accept orders and deliver items to consumers.
However, at present the major destruction that Covid-19 has inflicted on the restaurants and other eateries is not easily quantifiable. For the industry, at the present time when labour costs had already been pressurising profit margins, restaurants had added more temporary workers or extended hours of the existing employees to ensure that they can keep up with the demand and maintain sanitation and cleanliness. Now, things are even going to be more difficult as not only the survival but after the survival sustaining amid the weak demand is really going to be tough, as the situation for the industry is not likely to return to normal very soon, people will continue avoiding the place of gathering and the struggle for industry may get extended, even after the pandemic is contained.