‘Heartbreaking’ plea from restaurant owner after no one turns up for dinner

A restaurant owner has had to beg people to visit his tapas bar amid soaring energy bills and a cost-of-living squeeze.

Scott Oliver, 35, said the electricity bill at TAPA in Bollington, Cheshire, has soared from £600 to £2,500 in 18 months and he only managed to get it down to £1,500 per month when he cried down the phone with his provider.

Mr Oliver posted online asking what the business needed to do to tempt people in, offering free food vouchers for customers to use on a second visit.

Despite admitting his post sounded “desperate”, the father-of-one insisted he would do whatever it took to keep his business afloat.

He said: “We need bums on seats or we aren’t going to survive. The post is against some people’s ideas of how to use social media but you get to a point where you have to.

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“It’s heartbreaking and it’s soul-destroying for the lads in the kitchen. I don’t want them prepping all day to do absolutely nothing and be stood around.

“We’ve got to a point where electricity bills are so high, gas bills are so high, the mortgage has gone through the roof and staff costs are ridiculous.

“I even had to plead with our electricity supplier. Kicking, screaming and crying down the phone telling them we’re going to have to close the business if the bills aren’t reduced.”

Mr Oliver, who owns the business with his partner Jaydean Pilling, said he would never have posted in the way he did before this year, admitting it looked desperate and made it appear as if the business was failing.

He said: “I had to swallow my pride. I’m glad I did it in the end. I’ll do whatever I need to do to make our business survive.”

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After posting the message on August 30, Mr Oliver said he served about 60 people during the night and turned away 30 because they were too busy.

He said if they had not had any bookings that night the business would have paid out about £500 in wages for Jaydean, three members of staff and himself, but with nothing in return.

Mr Oliver insisted they work hard on social media marketing and run promotional offers to entice customers, including a 50 percent off deal if a customer brings an item for a food bank donation.

The increase in costs has meant on quiet nights the business can’t afford to pay a pot washer so the chefs have to step in.

But Mr Oliver’s post has led to bookings for other nights and even a private party with Scott saying TAPA has gained around 200 extra followers on social media.

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Turnover in Britain’s hospitality sector was up 6.7 percent in the last year to £137 billion but, compared to 2019, remains almost 20 percent behind in real terms when accounting for inflation, according to the latest UKHospitality Quarterly Sales Tracker.

The tracker also shows sales in the last year are 2.3 percent up on pre-pandemic sales although the quarterly growth rate is slightly down (0.2 percent) year-on-year.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said the figures illustrate the challenge facing hospitality businesses across the board.

She added: “Demand is good and sales are strong, but the rate of inflation means it’s near impossible for venues to keep up with the cost of doing business.

“The persistently high costs of energy, food and drink means the task of keeping up with inflation is getting harder with every passing day.”

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