Rishi Sunak has been branded ‘tone deaf’ after posing with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in a cheesy photo-op where they discussed the ‘challenges’ facing the industry during the pandemic.
The Chancellor faced the fury of people working in pubs, bars and restaurants over his online chat with multi-millionaire F-Word star, who sacked around 500 staff last year when the first lockdown started and used the furlough scheme to pay them for their notice period.
Hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy since last March, with repeated lockdowns and restrictions on opening at other times.
Mr Sunak posed a tweet which said the two men discussed ‘the challenges facing hospitality and how he launched a TV show in lockdown‘.
In a video later released, Mr Ramsay, who is spending lockdown at one of his homes in Cornwall, said his brand was ‘a standard bearer for the industry’.
Mr Sunak, the second most senior minister in the Government, told the 54-year-old chef he was ‘super excited’ to speak to him, adding: ‘Thanks for making the time for me.’
But the video and images posted online sent Twitter into meltdown, with users asking how Mr Ramsay could talk with authority about the impact on small businesses.
‘Up next – Rishi talks to (F1 racing driver) Lewis Hamilton about the problems facing ordinary people working in the transport industry,’ one wag wrote.
London based chef Kerstin Rodgers added: ‘This is really tone deaf. Interview freelancers working in hospitality, small restaurant owners, chefs and foh (front of house). Why are you obsessed with celebrity?’
The Chancellor later posted a set of photos from the discussion on the Government’s official Flickr channel.
The Chancellor faced the fury of people working in pubs, bars and restaurants over his online chat with multi-millionaire F-Word star, which was filmed by Government media.
Hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy since last March, with repeated lockdowns and restrictions on opening at other times
Mr Sunak posed a tweet which said the two men discussed ‘the challenges facing hospitality and how he launched a TV show in lockdown’. But it sent Twitter into meltdown, with users asking how Mr Ramsay coudl talk about the impact on small businesses
Mr Ramsay’s restaurants in London include Petrus, The Savoy Grill, Bread Street Kitchen and Heddon Street kitchen.
He also runs restaurants in Las Vegas, Baltimore and Atlantic City in New Jersey. As those cities are in lockdown with all restaurants closed it is believed staff have been issued with similar termination notices.
The chef’s flagship restaurant In London, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, has three Michelin stars.
He laid off more than 500 of his staff after temporarily closing his London restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic last March.
Chefs, waiters and other staff were called to a meeting and told their contracts were being terminated.
Each staff member was later sent an email telling them they would be paid up to April 17 – but no guarantee that they would get their job back when the restaurants re-open.
In May it was revealed that some of those workers were paid via the furlough scheme. The Sun on Sunday cited an email from Gordon Ramsay Restaurants’ HR Director Sarah Anderson to a London-based worker, which read read: ‘Should you not wish to apply for a new role, you will remain on the furlough scheme for the duration of your notice.’
The same source went on to claim senior members of staff in Mr Ramsay’s restaurants were being offered lower-paid jobs, including telling a supervisor to become a bartender.
Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said: ‘It will have to be carefully looked at whether the scheme was used to increase the profits of the company.’
The chef, who has an estimated personal fortune of over £140million, laid off his staff just a day after he paid tribute to them in an Instagram post.
Announcing his 12 restaurants were closing he wrote: ‘Huge love and thanks to our amazing staff across the restaurants for their passion and support.’
MailOnline has seen one of the emails sent to staff informing them they were no longer required.
It read: ‘I am writing to confirm that you have been given notice that your contract of employment will be terminated and you will be paid four weeks notice. You will be placed on garden leave for the duration of your notice.
‘Your P45, final holiday pay and any other monies owing will be forwarded to you in due course.’
The email goes on to say that in this difficult time support is available through the company’s assistance programme.
Shocking: Gordon Ramsay has revealed he had to cancel over 22,000 bookings for his restaurants in December before England was plunged into its third lockdown (pictured on The Graham Norton Show)
On Wednesday the chef revealed he had to cancel over 22,000 bookings for his restaurants in December before England was plunged into its third lockdown.
He said the effect Covid has had on the hospitality industry is ‘devastating,’ but he remains optimistic his business could re-open by Easter.
Speaking on The Graham Norton Show Mr Ramsay said he’s planning to open up even more restaurants when lockdown is eased, following reports the government plan to allow pubs and restaurants to re-open in May.
He admitted that thousands of bookings across his business were removed when Tier 3 restrictions in December forced many restaurants to close just weeks after re-opening following the second lockdown.
Weeks later the government placed the entire country in lockdown, with not set date as to when pubs and restaurants can re-open.
He told Graham: ‘It’s devastating. When you think about breaking bread and having fun with friends and family, it’s just tragic not to have that.’
The Hell’s Kitchen star added: ‘When we reopened last July, the atmosphere was monumental and electrifying, we didn’t even need music, so to be shut backdown was tough.
‘In December, our most important month, we cancelled 22 and a half thousand reservations, but I have always been optimistic.
‘It is tough but we will come out of this – we’ve re-created, re-developed and researched new ideas so when we come out of this lockdown we will open up as new restaurants. We are hoping we will re-open at Easter. It would be a dream.’
Gordon also spoke to Graham about his new BBC quiz show Bank Balance, revealing the series was developed during the last lockdown.
Coming soon: Gordon also spoke about his new BBC quiz show Bank Balance, revealing the series was developed during the last lockdown
Mr Sunak has become known for producing slick PR to accompany free-spending announcements on the coronavirus response.
The glossy PR has led to claims that he is positioning to become PM after Boris Johnson, although Mr Sunak himself insists he does not want the job.
Last November he removed his signature from social media posts promoting Treasury policies – sparking speculation he had been pressured to tone down his ‘branding’.
Labour has also mocked the tactic of putting Mr Sunak’s signature and face on many of his social media announcements.
Mr Sunak said last October that he is merely trying ‘lots of different ways to communicate with people’.
He also suggested the glitzy approach to his PR and prominence of his name in announcements was necessary because ‘most people probably didn’t know who I was before I had this job’.
Mr Sunak has also insisted he does not want to become PM. ‘I think the job I have is hard enough and I see up close what the Prime Minister has to deal with everyday,’ he said.