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When I said you were escaping my weekly blogs I really “hoped” we would be moving towards a normal

With Covid cases back on the rise

Normal really feels like a lifetime ago. Is it just us or do you feel the same?

When I said you were escaping my weekly blogs I really “hoped” we would be moving towards a normal. Hope has been put into suspension.

On Wednesday the FM announced that vaccine passports would be required for night clubs, theatres, football matches, events with more than 500 guests etc. This is subject to debate and vote at Holyrood next week but with a SNP/Green coalition it seems highly unlikely that this will not be passed. Looking at our friends around the world this is no surprise. It seems inevitable that they will also be introduced to restaurants.

Given the chat from Holyrood I think we will soon be forced to prepare for a reintroduction of some restrictions, not just vaccine passports! Will we be heading back to the Level’s system? What a nightmare!

The spike in cases in Scotland has coincided again with the return of schools. England with no mandatorymasks and schools still on holiday has not seen the increases in cases that Scotland is facing. Lanarkshire is back at the top of the European league table for Covid cases. Hospitality really can’t be blamed here.

Clearly the night time economy is going to be served the detention note. Personally, and it’s not because Victor’s no longer John Travolta, I’ve no plans to party like Saturday Night Fever. This sector of the economy is warning that if severe restrictions are put in place the problem will be driven underground and illegal raves will become rife, increasing all the risks to a far higher level than in managed environments.

Why has Scotland recorded the highest ever alcohol related deaths? Could it be because we were forced into lockdown and hospitality was banned from selling alcohol? Alcohol consumption was driven into an uncontrolled domestic environment. Clearly not all restrictions produce the desired outcomes.

Consumer demand is strong and clearly returning to normal, thank you so much! The beautiful weather has provided an added boost. In terms of team, we were feeling strong in the summer with July seeing a flurry of recruitment, with the end of furlough on the horizon the jobs market opened up. Now with August pay in the bank, our seasonal students have headed back to university and the usual European (the summer is over in Italy I’ll head to Scotland) influx has disappeared thanks to Brexit. All front line service industries are now facing severe recruitment shortages, the number of job vacancies in shop and restaurant windows is unprecedented in my lifetime, even pre internet advertising.

With Covid cases back on the rise, the number of our team off sick is mirroring this. We have had a proportionally higher level of sickness than ever. These team have been taking lateral flow tests but they have been coming back negative. There is a level of fear as Covid chat is all around but there is also a general fatigue that is clearly an underlying issue. The extended summer, which we’re not complaining about, is taking its toll, especially when masks are being worn. I see the team struggling.

We still have a week or so before we are at the safety point where we won’t have to close as the majority of the team will be double vaccinated with a 2 week clearance. But trying to bolster the reserves with additional support is proving very hard.

It feels like a long long time ago that we were able to post a job advert and know that within a day or two the post would be filled.

To give you an example in April 2019 we placed an advert for a bartender and we received 211 applications. The post was filled that day with an experienced barista. This week we placed a similar ad and we received only one application who had no previous experience. This is a snapshot of what every business in our sector is facing.

Third vaccinations are being rolled out for the most vulnerable. Some 12 to 16 year olds are now on the list and booster vaccines are waiting for us later in the year. The Delta variant is believed to spread much more easily and quickly than previous variants. The spread between those who are double vaccinated when they are infected, even when they may feel no symptoms is believed to be as high as with no vaccinations but the risk of hospitalisation is still lower. Is a vaccine passport really going to make any difference? Will it help force the younger vaccine resistant ones to get their jabs? What will happen to team members who are too young to be vaccinated, refuse to be or have antibodies? It will definitely present more management for a sector that is already under-resourced. The new normal may from time to time be slightly slower service, shorter menus, maybe shorter opening hours, one thing is for sure it’s anything but normal.

Always with our best intentions and thank you for all your support.

Christmas menus are being released next week. Last year Christmas was cancelled, do you remember? I hope that’s not the new normal as well! Aaaaagggghhhhhh……..

Thank you as always for all your support.

Carina


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