Restaurants openings to surge in London after August trading boom
The number of restaurants opening in London this year is set to surge as confidence floods back to one of the sectors worst hit by the pandemic.
Trading in August in central London has been far stronger than anticipated, and has been boosted by yesterday’s easing of “pingdemic” rules that brought chaos to the sector.
Website Hot Dinners estimates that there will be more than 200 launches this year compared with 137 in 2020.
The pipeline for the autumn opening season is looking particularly strong, with 38 already confirmed and the total expected to reach as high as 80. Industry observers say they have been astonished by the number and scale of new ventures considering how badly central London was hit by lockdowns.
Some of the most ambitious launches already include the DC Comics-themed Park Row in Soho; Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s four-venue collection of eating and drinking spaces The Lane, at Theatre Royal Drury Lane; and Covent Garden’s Florence-themed bar and restaurant Ave Mario.
Those scheduled for autumn include Haugen at The Pavilion in Stratford and the restaurants and bars at The Londoner Hotel on Leicester Square.
Hot Dinners co-founder Gavin Hanly said: “Last year, restaurants were faced with a particularly uncertain climate. We’ve emerged from the 2021 lockdown to a much clearer outlook, and that’s led to significant growth in openings.
“There are still many challenges ahead but things are definitely starting to look more positive.”
Restaurateurs said stability has returned to the sector, with some West End venues now seeing levels of trading above 2019, although City destinations are lagging behind.
The major hurdle is now recruiting enough staff to cope with demand.
Des Gunewardena, chief executive of fine dining group D&D London, said overall trading last week was 10 per cent ahead of the same week in 2019.
He said: “September is the key month, that will tell us what the rest of the year will look like. We have a wall of corporate events bookings that are provisional but not confirmed, everyone is waiting to see how things look.”
Chris Yates, managing director at chef Angela Hartnett’s group of restaurants, said: “We’re cautiously optimistic. It feels as though London is already significantly busier than July, with domestic visitors driving demand.
“Our site in Covent Garden has jumped back to life in the last two weeks, and we’ll be extending the operating hours to meet demand.
“We’re seeing strong advance bookings across the businesses for September and beyond... suggesting the second half of September will be a turning point for office occupancy.”
A spokesperson for Skye Gyngell’s Spring at Somerset House, said: “We are tentatively opening for lunches on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday initially, as we’ve always heavily relied on businesses in the area for a lunchtime crowd. Bookings are gradually coming in so it’s not bad, but could be better.”