One of London’s biggest commercial landlords is to subsidise discounted meals beyond the Treasury’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme in a bid to avoid a renewed slump in footfall.
Sky News has learnt that The Grosvenor Estate, which owns property in some of the capital’s most affluent postcodes, will announce on Wednesday that it is reducing rents for direct tenants which continue to offer diners half-price meals until the end of September.
Sources said that Grosvenor, one of Britain’s wealthiest landowners, had started approaching cafes, bars and restaurants in Mayfair and Belgravia this week to gauge their appetite for a continuation of the government’s scheme.
Grosvenor will cut rents for tenants on receipt of paperwork demonstrating that the relevant discounts of up to £10-per-head have been applied, one insider said.
The potential cost of the subsidy to Grosvenor is unclear but is likely to run to many thousands of pounds.
Among the sites which have signed up to the landlord’s offer are upmarket restaurants in Mayfair including Comptoir and Roka, while the Thomas Cubitt pub and Peggy Porschen café in Belgravia will also participate.
On Tuesday, the Treasury said that at least 64 million discounted meals had been consumed at participating hospitality sites since Eat Out to Help Out was launched at the beginning of the month.
“This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly two million people who work in hospitality,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak said.
“I am urging everyone, where they can, to continue to safely enjoy a meal while the scheme remains open.”
To date, a small number of restaurant chains, including Brindisa and Gaucho, have said they would extend Eat Out to Help Out into September at their own expense, but no major landlords had done so.
Grosvenor’s offer is significant because it underlines anxiety among commercial landlords that the end of the summer season will lead to a renewed decline in footfall in parts of central London.
The capital’s economy has been substantially slower to recover since the end of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown than many other parts of the UK.
Prospects for a swift bounceback in central London appear uncertain, with many large companies saying they will allow employees to work from home at least part of the time for months to come.
Some, such as the City-based asset manager Schroders, have gone even further by saying that staff can base themselves at home permanently.
That has spurred the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to outline a string of proposals aimed at “saving the West End”, although the decision to extend the capital’s congestion charge has attracted derision from many hospitality executives.
Data published recently showed that restaurant transactions in central London in mid-July were 80% lower than in January.
Comparable statistics from many suburbs suggested they were enjoying a faster recovery, with transactions at, or closer to, pre-pandemic levels.
A number of prominent restaurant chains have fallen into administration since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Carluccio’s and the parent companies of Café Rouge and ASK Italian.
Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost across the sector.
Grosvenor declined to comment on Tuesday.