This post was originally published by Great British Entrepreneur Awards. You can find the original here.

There’s been a lot of talk about the impact the Coronavirus outbreak will have on the UK’s small businesses. But what exactly does that look like?

You may well have seen a tweet from Cardiff restaurant, Asador 44, that has gone viral over the past few days after it saw 37 different bookings not turn up in one night.

We had a chat with Natalie Isaac, one of three siblings who own Asador 44, which is part of the 44 Group – five independent Spanish restaurants in South Wales and Bristol.

She said: “As long as we’ve got notice of lower business levels, it’s fine, we can try and plan for it and manage the team and purchasing accordingly.

“We’re asking people to please give us as much notice as possible if they’re not intending to come. Don’t no show!”

Natalie explained that another one of their restaurants saw seven no-shows the following night, but it has since died down. They are seeing a lot of cancellations, however.

“If you’re busy all the time, it’s not a massive problem because you can use the food the next day. But food has an expiry date, a handbag doesn’t.

“If a shop doesn’t sell a handbag one day, they can sell it a week later or month later. We purchase what we need.

“Some people have questioned why we would even take bookings, but it’s a very useful tool so that we can forecast our purchasing. We need to get food in, keep it in date, keep it at its best.”

Natalie added: “There’s the cost of lost food, cost of utilities – one of the cancellations was a table of 8 at 9:30. It had been a quiet evening, so if they had informed us they weren’t coming, we could’ve potentially sent staff home early.

“It’s all the little things that add up, and the margins in hospitality are small at the moment anyway so it’s very difficult to make money, so we need all the help we can get.”

Asador 44 previously took customers’ card details for a deposit if they didn’t turn up, but hasn’t enforced that policy in recent months. It’s something, Natalie says, they have no option but to re-introduce.

Worrying future

“We are a small, family-run business. Cash flow and fulfilling financial commitments over the next few months is a huge concern” Natalie said.

“We employ 120 people and our payroll is a significant bill every month. If sales don’t come, we’re very concerned about the next few months.”

Natalie also raised concern, not just for her business, around the issue of insurance.

She explained: “We’re struggling to get enough information about insurance. The insurers don’t seem to be clear. If business just drops off because of Coronavirus, that’s one thing. But if the government orders a lockdown, how does that work with insurance?

Ending on an uplifting note, Natalie said the reaction to the tweet has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Asador has been quite busy for the past few days, and there have been a lot of new faces that have hopefully come in after seeing the tweet,” she said.

“It’s been unbelievable. With everything that’s been going on in the world, there has been a lot of hate on social media but 99% of the comments have been so supportive and positive.”

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