AN INDUSTRY FORGOTTEN BY COVID 19
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
10, Downing Street
Friday 8 May 2020
Dear Prime Minister,
Ref: Event catering companies have been one of the hardest hit segments of the UK Hospitality sector from the effects of Covid19 and the enforced lockdown. Event Catering has slipped through the cracks regarding government support. 1,000s of businesses and individuals rely on this sector. Our summer has been decimated. A slow return with social distancing measures in place will mean zero to few events being booked for the foreseeable. Our future is bleak, many jobs are on the line.
I am the owner of Top Hat Catering, a Battersea based boutique event catering company in London. I have been in business supplying some of London’s great public and corporate events and to many venues since 2007. We are a relatively small team but we represent a massive part of British industry within which many who rely on our sector will be suffering immensely.
Whilst this is a personal letter, I know that some other companies in my sector (and our suppliers), of which some are far larger than Top Hat Catering, will be looking at the future with enormous concern. Some of those have chosen to support this letter.
I am very grateful for the Governments speedy deployment of the furlough scheme which has certainly rescued some of our full-time staff from the jaws of financial depression. The Government backed Business Interruption Loan Scheme for some of our sector may be a solution but for our business this would inevitably layer us in a substantial debt hole we would never be able to climb out again. We are not asset rich and have high fixed costs. Despite our success we work with slim profits and as Top Hat Catering is self-invested to date we operate growth relatively hand to mouth.
As a segment under the heading of Hospitality, event catering seems to have slipped through the net. There are no grant schemes available and the Business Rates Holiday does not currently to apply to us (despite rateable values and all other eligibility points being met). We cater outside not inside so we do not fall under any offered support.
I am not writing to moan, I am a grafter and a fighter. I have always paid my way, my taxes and my debts. I do not collect any government support other than child tax credits. As a single mother (nearing the end of a divorce) I get little support, but with my two small children I will see this through. On this occasion, however, I am asking for any help you can afford us in such extreme circumstances. I have just written to the landlord of my flat to see if they can accept a fraction of the rent I should be paying.
Big British Business is At Stake
According to Eventbrites helpful infographic*, the UK events industry is worth £43.3bn and 570,000 people are employed full time. There are over 10,000 venues, 1.3m business events held each year and 85m event attendees. After the Olympics in 2012, the UK has established itself as a world leader in outdoor events and London is considered the #1 city in the EMEA in terms of meetings and events activities.
What are we talking about?
With social distancing measures continuing indefinitely, people will be very nervous to put on or attend events whether mainstream or small gathering like weddings, parties, conferences or tradeshows. Whilst some of the segments within event catering may have received some government support or intervention others have not. With zero and followed by limited events into the future there will be an enormous negative impact on the future of event catering. Many jobs are at risk. Here is the value of Britain’s Events Sector – direct spend by segment which includes all supporting businesses (as well as caterers of course):
· Conferences and meetings – £19.9 billion
· Exhibitions and trade fairs – £11.0 billion
· Incentive travel and performance improvement – £1.2 billion
· Corporate hospitality and corporate events – £1.2 billion
· Outdoor events – £1.1 billion
· Festivals and cultural events – £1.1 billion
· Music events – £1.3 billion
· Sporting events – £2.3 billion
(figures based on last years events)
According to Raconteur** – in terms of generating employment, government tax revenue and spending by delegates, the business events sector is a UK economic powerhouse. This is under threat.
Our plea for more and continued support
We need some help right now to see our creditors right and to also help carry us through the lockdown (to cover rent, on-going bills and handle bad debt in order to keep the pulse of our business going). Catered events are not going to just bounce back when lockdown is relaxed. We are terrified that furlough will end and the expectation will be that business is back to normal – this is very unlikely to happen this side of Christmas.
· Treating event catering businesses as other Hospitality businesses such as restaurants, cafes and hotels.
· Ensuring that the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) is extended to include event catering businesses.
· Extending the time period of furlough until end of Q1 2021.
· Providing and extending the Business Rates holiday to event catering businesses until end of Q2 2021.
· Assisting in rent payment to landlords for up to 12 month rent free period.
· Reducing VAT for event catering businesses throughout 2020/21.
· Further extending the time for repayment of deferred VAT/PAYE, allowing for normal trading to fund these payments.
We appreciate these are extremely difficult times for the government. Thank you for reading this far.
Founder & CEO Top Hat Catering
List of Supporter for the Event Industry
Tim Brennan – Caper and Berry – Owner
Stuart Jenkins – Blue Strawberry – MD
Michael Symonds – Rocket Food- Founder
Nick Mead – Eden Caterers – MD
Murray Tollemache – The Pieman – Founder
Oli Charrington – Alresford Marquee – MD
Isabelle and Stewart Penfold – Couvert Hire – Owners
James MIddhurst – Kalm Kitchen – Co Founder
Ian Williams – Jacaranda Catering
Glen Sutton – Eventist – Group MD
Gary Peters – Evolve Events – MD
Jonathan Senior – JCS Events Consultancy
Owen Lawrence – The IAC – Venue – CEO
Philip Atkin – Off to Work – Founder
Lucy Verner – Urbane Caprice – MD
Alex Head – Social Pantry – Founder
Suzanne James – Suzanne James Catering – Founder
Jonathan Franks and Victoria Nalson of Pure Indulgence Catering.
Debbie Green – Greens Catering
Ruth Lawton Owen – The Admiral Crichton Events LTD
Clare and Sarah – Doggart and Squash
Gareth Palmer – Vanilla Bean
Liz Panter – Cavendish Events
Alix Caiger – Caiger Events – Founder
Mike Pope – Place Settings
Jay Burgesson-Carter – Food Show
Jonathan Ian Waterman – Wedding planner
Charlotte Selbie – The Food Initiative
Mark Maher – Boulevard Events
Henrietta Green – Freelance event planner
John Stockton – The Recipe
Barney Mauleverer – Fuel 10K and Fresh Marketing
Amy Hackett-Jones – Freelancer
Mai Suya London
Sylvia Garvin – Sejuiced Ltd
Favour Catering and Events
Les Enfants Party
The Merry Kitchen
Julia De Silvo – Blue Strawberry
Big Event Catering
Lena Bjork – Alexander and Bjork London
Pinstripes and Peonies flowers
The Pop Up Kitchen
Fun Thyme Ltd
MSK Catering Services
Crystal Hire Ltd
Noble House Events
Anna Peterson – Director of Events and Marketing – Alison Price
Dan Maxwell – Troika
Jennifer Lockham – Head of Events – Banqueting House
Tim Robinson – Twist London
Donald Sze – Freelancer
Emma MacDonald – The Baytree
Francis Poku – Freelancer
Grace Hudson-Evans – Freelancer
David and Annie Mauleverer – Family
Imogen Krupski – Capital Cooking
Guy Hoogewerf – Ncompass
Kim Ashman – Freelancer
Tony Page Catering
Jay Collins-Downe – Creventive
Natalia Hollingsworth – Director – Golborne Events
Edwina Vine – Freelance
Axel Bernstorff – Photographer
Alex Hoogewerf – Stretch Event Production Ltd
Charles Mauleverer – musician
Collins Larrys – Freelancer
Johnny Roxburgh – Party Architect
Victoria Potter Head of Events – Permira
Claire Arouche – Head of Events – National Gallery
Nicki Plowman – Event Manger – Permira
Kelly Balmer – Freelance
Jackie Filmer – Jackie Filmer Catering
Dan McEvoy – Real Cooking
Jessica Kruger – Gastro Unforgettable Events
Jeremy Sumbler – Covered Occassions
Charlotte Aitken and Katie Cricton -Stuart – Albion Parties
Mimi and Claire Ferrini
Simeon Hudson-Evans – Supplier
Crysta Hire Ltd
Xavier Cadiou – Director – Polar Black
Wendy Lewis -Wendy Lewis Flowers
Carway Roe Events
Clean Slate Catering
Steven Duggan Events
Matt Bradey – Covent Garden Marquees
Madeliene Cardozo – Photographer
Gavin Ingram – Bite Events
Options London Ltd
Great Hire Ltd
Kate Mogford – Rare Food
Pru Moger – supporter
Simon Liebel Entourage
Oxford Event Hire
Jo Grace – Freelancer
A cross section of our industry and does not include the people who liked the posts.