Jewish caterers say they remain “in limbo” after the Chancellor’s measures designed to save the hospitality sector will not apply to catering businesses.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor’s summer statement unveiled measures to help boost the flagging hospitality sector, which has suffered a devastating loss of income since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.
Rishi Sunak announced a temporary cut to VAT for food and accommodation from 20 per cent to five per cent until January 2021.
Jewish caterers however expressed dismay that the VAT cut would not apply to their catering industry.
“It doesn’t help us out at all,” said Mark Clyne, of kosher caterer Celia Clyne. “Our industry has been completely ignored.”
“We need some sort of relief,” he added, “or they the entire industry is going to be crushed.”
Mr Clyne added that an extension of the VAT reduction, the provision of greater government grants, or the further extension of the furlough scheme would be necessary to avert the total collapse of the broader catering and wedding industry.
“We are in limbo,” he said, “now it is a case of waiting until the next round and hoping that people will lobby on our behalf.”
Ben Tenenblat, who runs a luxury kosher catering company, had been hoping that the Chancellor would at a minimum announce a timetable or provide greater clarity on the regulations for the events industry.
“We were hoping for some sort of timetable, and guidance as to what is allowed and what is not – at the moment it is a very grey area.”
Currently, events of up to 30 people are permitted to go ahead outdoors.
“It is vague,” Mr Tenenblat said, “for example, is that 30 people for a party, and does that 30 people include catering staff? It is very unclear, and I am very disappointed.”
Mr Tenenblat added that the United Synagogue, under whose purview many kosher catering firms fall, had also failed to provide adequate guidance.
Adam Nathan, who runs a ‘kosher-style’ caterer, said that for large caterers business fundamentals would not change until large events were once again going ahead.
“Whatever measures the government introduces, at the moment it won’t get 150 to 200 people back in a room any time soon,” he said.
“It’ll be more of an organic process,” Mr Nathan said, “once the virus is controlled and when there is a vaccine.”
Mr Sunak also announced a government-sponsored scheme offering 50 per cent off discount of up to £10 per head at restaurants and cafes in August, as well as a £1,000 bonus to businesses for each furloughed worker brought back until January.
Jewish restauranteurs, however, expressed more optimism at the Chancellor’s announcement.
“It all helps,” said Daniel Urinov, of popular north London restaurants Aviv and Met Su Yan. “The government have been as good as they can. It is an unprecedented situation.”