Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing has warned the hospitality industry is in danger of collapsing unless it receives more help from the government.
In a stark warning, Wareing told Sky News there will be lots of restaurant closures and a “huge amount” of unemployment if more is not done to support the sector, which is worth £100bn a year to the UK.
Boris Johnson announced on Sunday that some hospitality businesses could possibly open in July at the earliest as he eased the COVID-19 lockdown slightly after seven weeks.
Wareing, who is chef patron at the Michelin-starred restaurant Marcus in London, told Sky News: “I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give us a little bit more meat on the bone, it would have been nice to have a bit more from him about the big picture.
“I am incredibly nervous about the future, I have no clue how to deal with social distancing in a kitchen or in hospitality.
“For me and my colleagues in the industry, we need some guidelines and we need it soon.
“We can’t sit at home just hoping we may get some titbits of information to show us how to go forward.
“We are very concerned – we were the first to close down and we’re going to be the last to reopen.
“I’m worried for my own health and my staff and customers, it’s really a scary thing to think we’re going to have to go to work in a kitchen which is very much an open playing field where staff are very much a team, they’re connecting with each other, they’re tasting food.
“You’re putting food on a plate which gets carried by a waiter and that food is then put in front of the customer.
“Social distancing does not work in hospitality.”
All cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs were forced to close on 20 March – three days before the lockdown – with some carrying on with takeaway, but restaurants like Wareing’s were not able to do so.
The chef, who is a judge on Masterchef: The Professionals, praised the furlough scheme as “incredible” and said if it continues but later decreases the industry “would accept that”.
But, he said restaurants work on very small margins and if social distancing meant opening up with 50% capacity or less it would be extremely difficult to make ends meet.
“You’ve got your wages, your rent, your bills, your staff, the maths do not add up,” he said.
“Our industry is on the verge of collapse.”
Wareing called on the government to “take on some leaders of our industry, get them into government, we need to talk about how we can move forward”.
The 49-year-old added: “My industry wants to go back to work, we can do this, but we need clear guidelines and it needs to come from above.
Wareing said the business secretary needs to get involved more and “we definitely need more from the chancellor”.
He added there are some “fantastic” hospitality leaders bringing some “great ideas” to the government but there are “so many things” that need to be helped.
“The hospitality industry will be one of the industries hit the hardest unless the government does something about it,” Wareing warned.
“It’s going to be very very bleak future for many years.
“You’re going to see a lot of restaurants close and a huge amount of unemployment. That is not something I look forward to.”