Chef Jason Atherton – a former pupil of Gordon Ramsay and boss of Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social in Mayfair – has said he will have to close restaurants in the new year due to challenges his Social Company group is facing in recruiting Staff.
Atherton specifically blamed the Conservative government’s policy decisions in the wake of Brexit and Britain’s exit from the European Union and the single market. Speaking to the Evening Standard, Atherton said his company had 350 vacancies and he could not open Berners Tavern at lunchtime “because I have no staff”.
“I can only open for breakfasts for hotel guests. Social Eating House is on its knees. I just can’t find a chef for this kitchen,” Atherton said. He said the same was true at the Little Social bistro in Mayfair and that he even struggled to recruit “a qualified business manager with a fat salary who would fly around the world in business class”. He said he felt helpless.
The comments seem part plea, part warning. He said January next year would be a ‘crucial time’ and that he and his company were facing ‘heartbreaking’ decisions due to a third of the positions in the company going unfilled. Only in the New Year would he “decide to mothball restaurants and only pay rent until the crisis subsides”.
Atherton, who has cooked for David Cameron, Theresa May and (a steak for) former US President Donald Trump, is unhappy the government has “allowed Brexit to get in the way” of hospitality. “There is a very simple step that would help and that is to join the single market, we have no choice. Everyone knows that the decision we made six years ago was the wrong decision. They sold us a lie.
Atherton’s restaurant portfolio in London includes its flagship Pollen Street Social, Social Eating House, Little Social, Harrods Social, City Social, Berners Tavern and the Blind Pig. He also oversees a number of international restaurants – in Switzerland, China and Greece.
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