The Lowdown: Strike Steak

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants including Hawksmoor and Chotto Matte launch offers to encourage diners out during rail strikes

Related tags Strikes Industrial action Network rail Strike action Trade union Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor has launched a steak meal deal to encourage diners out during the forthcoming rail strikes. And it’s not the only restaurant making moves to mitigate the fall in covers.

You could say that they’re grabbing the cow by the horns…
And who can blame them? It’s been estimated by UKHospitality that the rail strikes, which started in June last year, have so far cost the sector in the region £3.25bn. And with little evidence to suggest we’re any closer to a resolution to the industrial action, it’s no wonder that businesses are trying to do everything in their power to get bums on seats.

Tell us more about this steak meal deal, then
Hawksmoor is offering a £15 steak and frites meal deal across all of its UK restaurants between now and Monday 31 July (excluding Sundays), adding that the deal will also be available on ‘every rail/tube strike day for the foreseeable future’. To redeem the offer, diners need to quote ‘Strike Steak’ in the notes when booking a table on the Hawksmoor website. The group, which has sites across London, as well as in Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, says it hopes the deal will give diners a good reason to ‘move their rump’ and go have a good time in one of its restaurants. “[We] won’t make any money out of it,” the group says in its press material announcing the deal. “But it should help to keep [our] restaurants – and [our] hard-working teams – busy and hopefully give people a reason to come into town and make a day of it.”

What are other businesses doing to encourage people through the doors on strike days?
In London, several restaurant groups have announced offers to try and tackle the fall in cover numbers on strike days, although they may now be subject to change  given the announcement that next week's tube strike will no longer go ahead. As things stand, though, Nikkei restaurant group Chotto Matte will be running a ‘Strike Lucky’ campaign across its sites in Soho and Marylebone. The idea is to incentivise diners to visit by putting some money towards their cab home in the form of a discount. Parties of up to eight people can quote 'Strike Lucky' when booking or on arrival and get 25% off their total taxi fare. The offer is valid until Friday 28 July and not valid on drinks-only bookings. Meanwhile, for those craving a more meta experience, there’s Cahoots, the 1940s-themed bar in Soho that’s designed to resemble an abandoned tube station, and which will be offering a free ‘strike sipper’ welcome drink to all guests until 29 July.

Are any of these ideas likely to really work?
The Hawksmoor deal has certainly struck a chord, with the group saying it served nearly 800 rounds of steak and frites on the first day of the strike yesterday (20 July). In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s unlikely that deals like this will make much of a difference. The impact of the train strikes is well documented. Wine bar and restaurant group Vinoteca directly blamed the ongoing train strikes as being a factor in its decision to close its site within Birmingham’s Paradise development​, which hadn’t even been open a year, back in May. Giving guests more reason to visit your restaurant can never do any harm, but for the majority of diners, the disruption caused by train strikes will still likely force them to stay at home.

So, what’s the solution?
The only solution, ultimately, is for the rail unions and the Government to come to an agreement that’ll ensure there won’t be any further strikes. The last minute cancellation of next week's tube strike, announced today (21 July), suggests things may be moving in the right direction, but with regards to the national rail network, a breakthrough still feels like it’s a long way off. Speaking earlier this week, Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, whose members are set to walk out on 20, 22 and 29 July, said neither the Government nor the train operating companies had made ‘any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution’. “The Government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute,” he added.

We’re in the for the long haul, then?
Certainly seems that way. Steak frites all round.

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