By Scott Wright

A LEADING restaurateur has expressed fear there will be an exodus of talented chefs from the Scottish hospitality industry to England because of the continuing trading restrictions on businesses north of the Border.

Roy Brett, chef patron of award-winning seafood restaurant Ondine in Edinburgh, says there are signs the flight for work seen in Scotland in the 1980s is repeating itself as the industry faces up to a winter of severe disruption under the new tiered lockdown system.

And he warned many hospitality business owners are “two to four weeks” away from having to make huge decisions over the future of their outlets, declaring that forcing restaurants to trade between just 6am and 6pm, with no alcohol sales, will simply not be viable.

Mr Brett, who has resurrected his takeaway operation after being forced to close for a second time, said he is starting to see chefs begin to move from Scotland to restaurants south of the Border.

He said: “Although there is a 10pm curfew, which I still don’t understand, there is still business down there. In the south-west, in Cornwall and Devon, there are great restaurants down there that are looking for staff, they are looking for chefs.

“Up here, we have got the opposite, we have got people on furlough, people are being laid off again.

“Understandably, that natural migration as it happened in the ‘80s when I was a young chef, [when] you decided to go to London to further your craft, I can see that happening now. You have to go where the work is at the end of the day.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon signalled this week that central Scotland will be placed into tier three of the five-tier lockdown system when it comes into effect on Monday. That would mean hospitality outlets could operate during the day until 6pm, though they would be unable to sell alcohol.

Mr Brett said: “What is the point in a restaurant like Ondine at opening at six in the morning? We are not known as a breakfast destination.”

He added: “Our window is 12 to 5, [which means] last orders at five, everybody out by six, no alcohol.

“It is just bonkers. This is beyond words.”

Mr Brett, who is “losing bookings all the time”, said there continues to be little evidence of hospitality outlets being a major source of virus transmission. He said he cannot understand why such a complex patchwork of trading restrictions has been imposed across the country.

Referring to the future of outlets in the central belt, Mr Brett said: “We don’t have much time now. I don’t think it can go on much longer. The squeeze is on right now.”

He added: “We are all bracing ourselves to make big decisions in the next couple of weeks, the next month.

“In the next two to four we are going to have to make big decisions [over] whether we can sustain this, or do we just stop? There is no point throwing good money at bad money. I don’t see any light with how this is being handled at the moment.”