Coronavirus

‘We’re actively working and talking about best practice and how things could work’

By Ian Marland at

A quarter of Glasgow’s restaurants could disappear this year as a result of the pandemic, a leading industry figure has said.

Ryan James said the city’s food and beverage industry could see 40 years of growth reversed by the coronavirus crisis.

The owner of Two Fat Ladies at The Buttery on Argyle Street said casualties will come from long-established restaurants as well as more recent players.

Ryan James

Ryan James says there are tough times ahead for many restaurants. Photo: Two Fat Ladies Restaurants

Ryan who also has Two Fat Ladies on Blythswood Street and is chair of the Glasgow Restaurant Association, said it was a “scary time” for the city’s hospitality industry.

He told Glasgow West End Today: “What Glasgow looks like now and what it looked like in the 80s, is night and day.

“But I think we will go back to how we were then, to a certain extent.

“The closures will be across the sector, across all the grades of business.

“I think the 60 or so larger ‘haute brasseries’ will survive and they should be OK.

‘Bust’

“But others will go bust.”

He said: “There are something like 2,651 restaurants in Glasgow for a population of 500,000.

“At least a quarter could go over the next six months, according to estimates.

“I think that will probably be right in the beginning but it could go further.

“And some people won’t actually try to open, to be honest.”

Empty tables

Some restaurant owners may not contemplate opening at all, according to Ryan.

The Scottish government has set out a route map for Scotland to come out of lockdown over the coming months.

Restaurants will not know for sure when they can open until various stages to control the virus have been hit.

Ryan said any re-opening would have to be done gradually.

He and many in the industry think it will be after the summer before diners are back inside restaurants.

He told Glasgow West End Today: “There’s a lot of people not wanting to talk about going back.

‘Science’

“We all think it’s going to be October.

“I know a lot of people are talking about July, I think the science will say that is too early.”

He thinks there will need to be a ‘trial period’ at first to see if social-distancing measures work and to test consumer confidence.

“I think when we start off it needs to be almost like an experiment to get people into the idea (of how they have a meal).

“We are five years away from the situation being the same again – five years for those tables to get that close again, if ever.”

‘I know a lot of people are talking about July, I think the science will say that is too early’

Ryan James

Ryan, who employs 56 staff, says opportunities exist for businesses and restaurants that can adapt to the new reality.

He said “fortune will favour the brave” and those who can invest to create safe dining spaces or change their business model will weather the storm.

He said his business had restructured since the lockdown to prepare it for leaner times ahead.

He is currently investing £40,000 in a refit and re-working of layout at The Buttery, to create safe spaces for social distancing.

Perspex screens may have to be used as they are in supermarkets, and the hospitality industry is currently looking at best options.

‘Concierge’

Ryan said: “There is going to be a need for cleaning in restaurants all the time.

“We might be going back to the old days of a concierge in the toilet making sure people are washing their hands.

“We are doing socially-distancing redesign of the restaurant over two floors so that people can be spread out, and may be hit 70% capacity.

“It’s about how do you keep the flow going in the restaurant without getting so close to customers that they feel uncomfortable.

“We are actively working and talking about best practise and how things could work.”