I feel like hospitality is sitting on death row waiting for a pardon, but everyone, including the judge, knows we’re innocent.
I try and be upbeat but last Tuesday’s announcement that Edinburgh would be staying in Level 3 restrictions was a blow. There was a general optimism and leaked press coverage saying we were moving down and I got my hopes up. Big mistake.
Victor and I had our reservations (we had other reservations too) as we have noticed an increase in visitors from the West. The wise men came from the East. Do you think someone got the compass upside down? I’m not judging, you all know Nonna G is from Glasgow!
Rotas were redrafted, we opened up the booking system, started looking at the drinks list, again, and refreshed the menu making it more early evening / wine complimentary focused. What a waste of time! It’s clear that Scottish Government has no idea how hospitality works. We’re not a production line that you just stop and start. Do they understand the resource required to manoeuvre around this quagmire?
Taste Communications, the PR company run by Stephen Jardine and his amazing team, launched the “Taste Edinburgh” last week. A campaign to encourage people to buy gift vouchers and support the capital’s well loved independent and family businesses. The campaign’s spirit is not just Edinburgh centric, it applies to every town and city in the country. Support the venues that can’t trade under Covid and the ones you don’t want to lose. In doing so you’re supporting a much wider community.
I was asked to the photo shoot on Ramsay Lane. Some of the great and the good of Edinburgh hospitality together for what was probably a first. From James Thomson of Prestonfield, hospitality champion Tom Kitchen, Andrew Radford of Timberyard, Martin Wishart, Fiore, Civerinos, Signature Pubs, 21212 and many others included.
It was emotional. Michelin Stars to pizza stars, traditional cafes and gourmet pubs all standing together (social distance of course). Solidarity for a sector that is beyond fragile. An industry that is standing together to try and effect some change before it’s too late for so many businesses both front line and in our wider supply chain.
The Level and Tier restrictions are slowly killing hospitality. Level 4 and 3 are impossible to trade without significant losses and Level 2 remains unknown for us.
I’m trying not to be angry as how can you be angry towards a virus that has killed people you don’t even know. But government strategy that is seeing businesses like ours severely restricted while creating an environment for supermarket grocery sales to hit record £10.9bn levels in November feels like the big boys are winning, big time. Clearly the Levels are better for some more than others!
The photo backdrop showcased Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city of “The Land of Food and Drink”. It felt like we were very exposed but fighting for a hidden community. This campaign isn’t just about restaurants, pubs and bars, it’s also about our suppliers. The raw ingredients that make our beautiful venues even more special.
Is the government championing, or even aware of, this part of our heritage, these family businesses that add so much value to our rural communities and give us a world class food identity? These small suppliers are the big ticket that has been such a draw for tourism and dare I say our export success, but also the ingredient that will help drive our recovery.
These small suppliers also add to our biodiversity and general sustainability. Slow Food; good, clean and fair values at the heart of all their choices. They are our vaccine for our planet and our food chains health and wellbeing. Somebody isn’t seeing the big picture.
There needs to be a rebalance. Edinburgh Covid infections went up slightly last week. Why? Not because people are getting drunk in restaurants but because more people are entertaining at home and house parties are the fashion for some. Mixing at home, where more alcohol is often consumed, in an unsocially distanced environment is driving the wrong results.
Moving our socialising habits from Covid safe venues to our houses isn’t just a Covid problem. We’re creating an economic and skills disaster that has successfully defined and given life to a nation of great food. Please let’s not kill this and let the big boys win.
We need our reprieve, don’t slaughter the innocent. Let us help share good food, health and community wellbeing with far more flare, joy, environmental benefits and value than any supermarket. We need all the ingredients for our mutual success.