Bookings surge ahead of second lockdown

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant bookings surge ahead of second Coronavirus lockdown in England

Related tags Coronavirus lockdown Bookings

Chefs and restaurateurs across England have seen a surge in reservations ahead of the second country-wide lockdown, with booking numbers three-times higher than the week before in some cases.

Gregory Marchand, chef patron of Frenchie in London's Covent Garden, describes the increase of bookings ahead of Thursday's (5 November) lockdown as 'astounding'.

"People are clearly keen to dine out - there's a feeling of urgency," he says, adding that between Monday and Wednesday this week (2 to 4 November), the number of reservations he's received have either doubled or tripled on the week before.

"The bookings speak for themselves."

On Thursday, hospitality venues across England will close for at least a month​ under what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as ‘tough new national measures’ that will effectively see the country plunged back into lockdown.

Under the restrictions, all restaurants, pubs and bars in England must close, although takeaways and deliveries will be permitted.

According to real estate adviser Altus Group, the lockdown will impact 37,616 pubs and nearly 27,000 restaurants.

Many restaurateurs say they have seen a spike in booking since the Prime Minister's announcement at the weekend, with reservations for the Wednesday night already full across many restaurants.

"We're not usually open Monday to Wednesday, but following the announcement over the weekend, we announced on our socials and newsletter that we would be opening especially," says Marwa Alkhalaf, chef patron at Nutshell in Covent Garden.

"We saw around 65 bookings (150 covers) come in for the next few days and are fully booked on Wednesday."

Martin Williams' Gaucho and M restaurants have also seen a surge, reporting that they collectively received over 8,000 calls for booking enquiries following the Prime Minister's announcement. 

It's not just a London trend either, across the country restaurants are filling up as diners take the opportunity to have one last meal out before the shutdown.

"Our restaurant and hotel rooms were fully booked anyway, but to maximise revenue we decided to open on Wednesday lunchtime when we're usually closed," says Alasdair Elwick, general manager of The Forest Side in Cumbria

"Every table was snapped up in under three hours."

Rick Stein Group chef director Jack Stein, who operates numerous sites in Cornwall as well as restaurants in Barnes, Sandbanks, Winchester and Falmouth, paints a similar picture.

"We saw a surge in bookings across the board on Sunday with bookings up 25% from the Sunday before," he says.

"People are definitely looking to make the most of the few days we have left which is brilliant.

"Our flagship site, The Seafood Restaurant, is looking particularly busy with only a few late afternoon tables left. We still have some availability in our other sites but it’s filling up fast."

Booking platform Quandoo saw a spike in bookings on Saturday 31 October shortly after Johnson's announcement, with 30% more tables being booked than the previous day and 34% more bookings than the Saturday before. 

Quandoo says this trend continued throughout the weekend, with 63% more tables being booked on 1 of November than on the Sunday before (25 October). 

Quandoo registered a similar consumer response on the 22 of June, the day the Government announced the reopening of restaurants on 4 July, which saw a  500% increase in people lining up dining options than the day before the announcement was made. 

The London based Quandoo partner restaurants who saw the biggest uptake in bookings for the 4 of November, the eve of England's lockdown, were all neighbourhood places, with no W1 or Central London postcodes making the top 10 most booked venues. 

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