More than 22,000 restaurant jobs have been shed so far this year, after the coronavirus pandemic caused swathes of closures across the sector, according to new figures.
Job losses at UK restaurants so far in 2020 are already almost double the number of redundancies for the entirety of 2019, according to the Centre for Retail Research.
Figures compiled by the organisation have revealed that 22,039 roles were lost across large restaurant groups and independent operators from the start of the year to August 4.
It said this represents a 95.4% increase on the 11,280 job losses reported during the whole of 2019.
The figures also revealed that 1,467 restaurants and casual dining outlets have closed over this period, representing a 59.1% increase on the total 922 sites which closed during 2019.
On Monday, Pizza Express became the latest operator to reveal major cuts, announcing plans to axe up to 1,100 jobs and permanently shut around 67 of its restaurants.
It came after rivals Carluccio’s, Byron and Bella Italia owner Casual Dining Group all slipped into administration after the virus and subsequent lockdown exacerbated already tough conditions for casual dining firms.
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the centre, said: “The sector was already in severe difficulties before the pandemic as a result of rapid over-expansion fuelled by private equity acquisitions, with the enforced lockdown serving to starve operators of revenue bringing restaurateurs now to their knees.”
The Government had hoped to fend off job losses through its furlough scheme, with analysts now warning that redundancies could continue as the scheme is wound down in the coming months.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also wiped out business rate payments for restaurants for the current financial year as part of financial support measures.
Restaurants have this year received a business rates holiday worth £622.13 million as a result, according to analysis by real estate adviser Altus Group.
Robert Hayton, head of business rates at Altus, said: “Urgent clarity is needed now on the level of that support moving forward as difficult decisions lay ahead.”
However, Mr Sunak has resisted calls to extend the furlough scheme with targeted measures to stave off further job losses, saying the support cannot go on “indefinitely”.
The Government also launched its £500 million Eat Out to Help Out programme to boost customer spending by subsidising a 50% discount on food and soft drinks up to a maximum of £10 per diner on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this month.