London Olympics will see trade drop, restaurateurs claim

They predict regulars staying away, supplies being disrupted and tourists lured from the West End
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The Independent Online

London restaurateurs warned yesterday that the 2012 Olympics will be bad for business and a repeat of the "wash-out" Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April.

The London Olympic and Paralympic Games are expected to attract approximately 5.5 million daytime visitors and 900,000 over-night visitors, but some restaurant owners say they will lose out. They claim regulars and cultural tourists will stay away, fans attending events will not dine out in central London, and transport disruption, such as road closures, will cause problems for customers and suppliers.

The Earl of Bradford, chairman of the Restaurant Association and owner of Porters English Restaurant and Covent Garden Grill, said the Royal Wedding last April was a "wash-out" and he suspected the Olympics could be, too. "I think that's an example when people are in London specifically for one reason they don't think of going out to a restaurant."

He questioned whether theatregoers, who dine out regularly, would go into London during the Games. This summer, more than half the shows in the West End extended their booking periods to offer sales 15 months in advance to cover the Olympic dates.

Richard Shepherd, another restaurateur, is considering closing his four restaurants, including Langan's Brasserie, during the Games after takings plunged by 75 per cent over the Royal Wedding period. "I think a lot of people are going to catch a cold again," he said. Mr Shepherd suggested London's roads would be "gridlocked" and regulars would go on holiday to avoid the disruption.

Peter Prescott, managing director of Prescott & Conran, which runs the Boundary and Albion restaurants in Shoreditch, east London, and Lutyens in Fleet Street, is concerned regular business customers will attend corporate events hosted by the Games organising committee's sponsors and partners at Olympic venues rather than entertain in restaurants. Many Olympic events clashed with normal dining times, he said.

He is also concerned about receiving deliveries – he is already hearing from suppliers about difficulties caused by disruptions to their routes.

But Mark Evers at Transport for London, in charge of getting spectators to the events, said the Games would provide restaurants with "incredible opportunities", but those in affected areas needed to start planning now. He said talking to suppliers early and testing alternative arrangements should minimise the impact.

Sara Galvin, of Galvin Restaurants, which has four London eateries including the Michelin-starred La Chapelle, was being positive. She said restaurants needed to "think outside the box". The company has an Olympics website page, translated into four languages, offering customers the opportunity to dine at different times to fit around the sporting action, watch televised events while they eat or hire the restaurant.

The chef Tom Aikens's London restaurants are among those that have signed the London Visitor Charter, promising fair pricing during 2012. He said visitors would not be at events every day and argued that people who might otherwise go away for the summer would stay in the capital for the "once in a lifetime experience".

Nevertheless, Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, bemoaned a "total absence of normal tourists" in London during the Olympics. He said that, while operators would normally expect to bring between 20,000 and 30,000 people per night into London during August, there was currently a 95 per cent decline in leisure business during the Games.

A spokeswoman for London & Partners, a promotional agency, said it was aware of displacement – people leaving or avoiding the capital because of the Games and said other host cities had experienced the same. It is running a campaign called Limited Edition London to highlight unique events happening in the capital between now and the Games.