The mobile catering sector, so reliant on the summer season, has been understandably concerned about money already invested and the prospects for the year.
NCASS have received a significant number of calls and messages from concerned customers looking for advice, support and above all clarity. Both industry and the wider population were waiting for such clarity from the Prime Minister, which was delivered yesterday 12th March 2020 by the PM and senior medical staff.
Members have been concerned about imminent closure of ‘mass gatherings’ as insurance brokers have confirmed a significant number of events in the UK are not insured for closure and as such deposits and pitch fees already paid are largely unprotected should events be cancelled.
The prime minister has re-affirmed there is no current requirement to close mass gatherings but that the virus would likely peak in three months, right in the middle of the events season. So, the first concern, will events take place this summer has largely been answered, for now at least. What is not clear is whether there will be a public appetite for events during a pandemic.
We know this is a scary time for caterers; never has our industry been in such a volatile position and as such, we are working with industry partners and government bodies to make clear the risk to catering businesses and to ensure that catering businesses are not sacrificed to protect events.
What are NCASS doing?
We have been in daily contact with other members of the festival and events industry. Our membership of the events Industry Forum enables us to discuss concerns with the rest of the sector and where possible co-ordinate responses.
We have contacted all of the event organiser trade associations to make them aware of the specific concerns of many caterers and asked that they request clarification on those points from event organisers. We have asked for clarity where possible although we appreciate, that events may not know yet how things will play out, most will have by now considered the risks.
Discussions with Government
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have contacted NCASS seeking business intelligence on how COVID-19 is impacting individual businesses and business sectors.
We are developing a survey that we encourage all members to respond to that will give us the data to make our case to government for specific sectoral support, should the entire summer season be significantly impacted. This data will then dovetail into the wider industry requests for assistance that are being made now. We hope to have the survey ready on Monday.
What actions should I be taking?
If you haven’t already signed the petition calling for the government to offer economic assistance to the events industry during Covid-19, then you can do so now by clicking here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/301186
The next steps you take for your business will depend wholly on your individual circumstances. We urge you to take on board as much information as possible so that you are suitably prepared to analyse the risk and make the most informed decisions you can. We know that some caterers will have paid their pitch fees well in advance and are now left wondering what will happen in the event of cancellation. Others have held off paying but as pitch fee deadlines approach, feel conflicted over whether to pay or not.
At this moment in time, it’s difficult to give blanket advice, as much as we would like to. What is crucial is that caterers and event organisers maintain an open dialogue. We’ve listed below what we feel should be the main points of consideration for caterers, especially before making payments of any kind. It’s a daunting time for everyone in our industry and now more than ever, we need to band together and communicate effectively.
My pitch fees are due soon. What should I do?
Again, there isn’t a black and white answer here and it will depend on individual circumstances. However, if paying the fee would put your business in serious jeopardy should the event be cancelled with no refund policy, then think very carefully before paying at this time and it may sound obvious but the higher the pitch fee, the higher the risk for your business.
Now’s the time to draw on your gut instincts; if you have a bad feeling about coughing up the cash, then seriously consider holding on to it, you may need that cash to sustain you through difficult times to come.
We’ve asked the events industry to clarify the below points on behalf of members and to either contact contracted caterers or publish their current position online.
We also strongly recommend that caterers consider the following points/questions when making decisions about forthcoming events:
- Does the event have a refund policy in event of cancellation?
- If the event is going ahead, is there an option for changing your contract so that a pitch fee is based on a % of earnings rather than a fixed fee?
- If I pay and the event is cancelled, can you roll over your pitch fee to next year?
- Is there an option for postponing pitch fee deadlines?
- Bear in mind that if events are postponed, you may not be able to attend all of them as it’s uncertain when they will happen.
- Should attendances be significantly affected, will vendors be informed accordingly to reduce the risk of over stocking or over staffing for the event?
- Is the event able or willing to update traders of actual and predicted ticket sales prior to the event?
I have already paid my pitch fees in advance. What should I do now?
- Considerations same as above, including:
- We recommend you speak to the relevant local authority about potential attendance at the event if it goes ahead.
I haven’t yet booked any events for the summer. Should I wait?
Only you can answer this question. If you haven’t yet booked any events for the summer, our advice is to read all of the above advice, analyse the risk on an individual event basis and weigh up whether it’s the right decision for your business at this time.
The events I had planned have been cancelled or I suspect they will be soon. What can I do to recoup my losses?
As it stands, we would encourage members to diversify and look to events they might not have previously, including smaller, local public events which potentially face less risk of cancellation and reduced attendance and will likely have a smaller pitch fee. Have you paid by credit card? If so, it is worth checking with your credit card provider whether you’re entitled to a refund, through them, if the event doesn’t go ahead.
We will continue to publish advice and guidance regarding covid-19 as and when the government’s position changes and/or the situation evolves.