Bristol Food Union has issued an open letter, calling on the city’s MPs and the local council to take urgent action to help prevent the collapse of our city’s independent restaurant sector.
The letter – which you can read in full here – highlights just how critical a situation many of our restaurants face, and calls on both government and the local council to help to safeguard the hospitality sector.
Bristol Food Union writes, “We can all agree that food plays a huge role in helping to make Bristol… well, Bristol…Our city enjoys a national reputation as a food destination… Along with our colleagues in live-music, arts and festivals, we form an ecosystem of small businesses, freelancers and entrepreneurs, who punch well above our weight in delivering economic benefit to the city. Over 44,000 of us work in food and hospitality alone.”
And follows by detailing some of the challenges that the sector faces:
“Hospitality businesses have been operating in the margins for far too long….. Our restaurants are heavily dependent on month-to-month cash liquidity. A good weekend is no longer enough to see us through a quiet mid-week. For many of us, breakeven depends on our restaurants being full almost all of the time.”
In its letter, Bristol Food Union also highlights the issues faced by hospitality suppliers:
“Some of our best food producers are almost 100% dependent upon the restaurant industry…. It should not be the case that demand for high-quality, locally produced food is still considered the luxury of chefs who care about production, provenance and taste.”
“Bristol could be a world leader in demonstrating how a sustainable, regenerative food and farming economy can deliver beneficial outcomes across a wide range of other sectors.”
The letter continues by detailing the actions that both Bristol MPs and the local council can take to help better support the sector. It is signed by more than 30 of our leading hospitality businesses, including Jan Wilson of Wilson’s, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias of the Casamia Group, and Toby Gritten of the Pumphouse, plus others. More of the city’s food businesses will be invited to add their voices over the coming weeks.
Bristol Food Union founder Aine Morris says, “The aim of this letter is to make sure that both the public and those that represent our city are aware of just how difficult the situation facing many of Bristol restaurants is.
We are pleased to work in a city where we have a positive and communicative relationship with a local council, who are committed to a sustainable future for Bristol. However, the dangers facing the industry are real and immediate. Some of our favourite restaurants are clear that they will be unable to reopen. We cannot stand by and watch as these businesses who have committed brutal hours of hard work, personal sacrifice and financial risk, now go under.”
Speaking on behalf of the chefs involved with the project, Dominic Borel of Pasta Loco said, “Pasta Loco is a small restaurant with no access to outside seating space. During the Covid lockdown we have furloughed staff and been closed. With fixed overheads, but less ability to generate income, there is no easy way to see how we will be able to reopen without sustaining further financial loses. We don’t know what the answer is, but we’re clear that Bristol’s restaurants need help.”
Tessa and Elliot Lidstone from Box-e said, “Re-opening our restaurant is a fine balance between ensuring the safety of our staff and customers, whilst also maintaining a financially viable restaurant.
We are keen to get back to supporting our suppliers as soon as possible. Restaurants are an essential part of the hospitality chain and closures have had a knock-on impact for the whole of food production We buy a lot of produce from a range of small suppliers, so closures for restaurants like ours have a huge impact for businesses and lives way beyond just our own restaurant.”