Pubs and restaurants set for massive weekend if bookings are accurate

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London is set for spending splurge over the weekend as pub and restaurant-goers flock to the West End.

Almost every outdoor table in the Capital has booked from this evening until close Sunday, according to the Centre for Retail Research, which estimates spending over the two and half days could top £300mln.

Saturday spending is expected to reach £170mln, said the think tank with only a slight dip to around £130mln on Sunday.

Restaurant bookings are also said to be higher than last July when the ban on eating out after the first lockdown was lifted.

Bookings app TheFork said numbers are more than double this weekend than ‘Super Saturday’ a year ago.

“Bookings in London alone are rocketing, up 220% for this weekend compared to the ‘Super Saturday’ weekend last year, when hospitality re-opened after the first lockdown,” UK managing director Patrick Hooykaas, said.

The rest of the country has seen reservations jump by 105%, he added, though the acid test will be how many of those who have booked actually turn up.

“The most expensive item to a restaurant manager is an empty table because it costs the same amount empty as it does full,” said Hooykaas.

The British Beer and Pub Association was also cautious saying that gardens are only around 25% of capacity and to be classed as fully booked need to be 80% filled.

Retailers are also reporting a greater surge in customers through their doors than at the end of the first lockdown.

Hammerson said today that its shopping centres had seen 60% more customers than in the first week after the first lockdown ended in June 2020.

Alongside pubs and restaurants, non-essential shops were allowed to open again on 12 April for the first time since before Christmas

In an interview with the BBC, Mark Bourgeois, Hammerson’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: “It’s been a really encouraging start.”

To help encourage retailers back into venues, Hammerson also said it was cutting rents for retail tenants by a third.

The landlord, which owns London’s Brent Cross, only collected 75% of rent due last year because of the economic damage suffered by brick’n’mortar shops during the pandemic.

“Typically, we’re resetting our rents to more affordable levels,” Bourgeois said.

He noted that the vaccine rollout has made people feel safer, while the sector will enjoy consumer confidence after UK residents have amassed more savings than usual during lockdowns.

Hammerson shares rose a touch to 39.47p, pub group Mitchells & Butlers PLC (LON:MAB) was little changed at 312p while JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW) edged up to 1,373p.

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