Londoners are flooding pubs and restaurants with “off the scale” booking enquiries as a minister confirmed Monday’s long-awaited reopening of indoor service will go ahead as planned.
Leading chefs and restaurateurs have been stunned by an “incredible and overwhelming” surge in bookings as the city’s hospitality sector is on the brink of bursting back into fuller life.
Many popular venues are already fully booked at peak slots for weeks ahead, with enquiries said to be running at around twice pre-pandemic levels.
Restaurants, bars and pubs will be able to let customers indoors for the first time since London was put under Tier 3 restrictions in mid-December.
The pent-up demand to return to the capital’s hospitality sector appears to be far more enthusiastic than for the July 4 “super Saturday” reopening last year.
Many restaurants are reporting difficulty in recruiting the staff needed to meet the huge number of bookings.
This morning vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi quashed concerns that an increase in the Indian variant of cases would derail the Monday reopening.
“The four tests for Monday have been met,” he told Sky News, referring to the jabs roll-out’s success, it cutting hospitalisations and deaths, infection rates, and the threat from variants, before restrictions are eased.
However, he stopped short of saying the final stage of easing lockdown would happen on June 21.
The hospitality sector has been able to serve outdoors since April 12 but one of the coldest springs on record has limited demand.
Social distancing will still have to be observed on Monday and tables can be no bigger than six or from two households.
London’s hospitality industry described bookings as “off the scale”. Aurelien Pottier, general manager at Amazónico on Berkeley Square, said: “Since our reservations lines opened we have had an overwhelming response, which is incredibly exciting.
“Within just a few hours we received over 4,500 calls, took 1,300 bookings and our waiting list grew to 4,000.”
Des Gunewardena, chief executive of fine dining group D&D London, said: “Bookings are still double pre-Covid levels for next week and even fuller the week after.”
Virginie Bigand, director of marketing at Joel Robuchon International, which runs Mayfair’s Le Comptoir Robuchon, said: “We’ve seen an incredible influx in bookings.”
Jeremy King, chief executive of Corbin & King restaurants, which includes The Wolseley, said: “Demand is massive, we could fill the restaurants many times over at peak times.”
Ollie Dabbous, executive chef at Hide restaurant on Piccadilly, said: “Next Saturday we have got pushing 500 booked in. I can’t think of any other time like it since we opened.”
In Kings Cross, Monday will see an extra 1,300 seats become available on top of the 1,500 alfresco covers already laid on. Hotels are also seeing huge waves of bookings after months shut or near empty.
A spokeswoman for Maybourne Hotel Group, which runs Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Berkeley, said: “We are seeing a big weekends and midweek spike in bookings.”
Ayo Akinsete, area managing director at Treehouse Hotel London in Marylebone, said: “We have seen solid bookings since opening, reaching max capacity on most nights. From the 17th we have a very strong base of business booked for inside reservations.”
Patrick Hooykaas, UK managing director at booking website TheFork, added: “It’s been a bumper month for the hospitality industry.
“London bookings are up a staggering 130 per cent compared with the seven days starting from super Saturday weekend last year.”