Pub and restaurant bosses hit by a wave of cancellations prompted by the threat of Omicron have urged the public to help them get through a difficult Christmas.

Many outlets are reporting a drop in business in what is usually their busiest period, as people scrap plans for festive parties and other celebrations in the wake of warnings about the surge in Covid cases.

To support the hospitality industry, leading figures have suggested some ways in which people can help.

Among the ideas are for people to buy vouchers for those who are not currently comfortable eating out.

Meanwhile, some businesses are also innovating - considering a return to services like click-and-collect meals which were introduced earlier in the pandemic.

Instagram account Enjoying Norfolk, which showcases local spots, has posted a series of tips for people to show their support to the beleaguered industry.

Rescheduling and downsizing bookings - rather than cancelling them - is one suggestion. People who do venture out are also encouraged to be generous with tips.

The advice also recommends that those who are going out should take a lateral flow test beforehand, and wear masks. Although masks are not currently required in hospitality settings, they might give people greater confidence in such venues.

The advice also urged people to always let businesses know if they aren't going to make their bookings, rather than just not turn up.

Victoria MacDonald, who runs the Cellar House in Eaton, said it was crucial to keep talking to venues. "Phone a venue, say what's your quietest time, do you serve a cup of coffee and go along with a friend," she said. "If everyone did this it would make a big difference."

Eastern Daily Press: Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty.Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty. (Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire)

"I thank my lucky stars, but I am not having a normal Christmas and I defy anyone to say they are," she added.

She said many would suffer on so-called Black Friday - the final Friday before Christmas - a day when traditionally people would leave work early, go shopping and pop into the pub.

Iain McCarten, of The Last, in Norwich's St Georges Street, said cancellations had been growing throughout December.

"We are having large scale cancellations now," he said. "So far this month we have had quite a lot of big parties, and we will have a certain percentage of the people who won't show up or will cancel last minute.

Eastern Daily Press: Iain McCarten at The Last Brasserie.Iain McCarten at The Last Brasserie. (Image: Archant 2021)

"Big companies are pulling the funding, cancelling and requesting deposits back. It's pretty massive. We have quite a big restaurant and this time of year is what we survive on. One big table of 30 cancelling is huge."

The bulk of cancellations are limited to corporate, rather than smaller table, bookings, though some Christmas parties were being postponed until January and February.

"I'm a bit numb to it all," he said. "My skin is getting thicker, but it is devastating."

Eastern Daily Press: Victoria MacDonald, who runs the Cellar House at Eaton and the Old Ram Inn at Tivetshall Saint Mary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYVictoria MacDonald, who runs the Cellar House at Eaton and the Old Ram Inn at Tivetshall Saint Mary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY (Image: Archant)

He said they were considering returning to click and collect meals. He - and all restaurateurs we spoke to - said government messaging was unclear, and that businesses would want to see reduced VAT extended, rather than scrapped in April.

In north Norfolk, Eric Snaith, who runs Titchwell Manor, Eric's Fish and Chips and Eric's Pizza, said they had also reduced Christmas bookings this year. One larger booking which would have filled the hotel cancelled on Thursday morning.

"We are having table bookings cancel too, we have had one so far for Christmas Day for a three-day break," he said.

Richard Graveling, manager at the Grove Hotel in Cromer, said: "What’s not helping is mixed messaging coming out of the government at the moment.

“That’s a real problem for us because what we are concerned about in the hospitality industry is facing a lockdown by stealth where the government will say hospitality is open and at the same time tell people not to go out."

Michael Papachristou, owner of Othello restaurant on Yarmouth's seafront, said: "We've had numerous cancellations due to Covid... However, it's better than lockdowns and not as bad as last year."

Eastern Daily Press: Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham of Farmyard.Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham of Farmyard. (Image: Simon Finlay Photography)

Hannah Springham, who runs the Dial House in Reepham and Farmyard in Norwich, said they had seen cancellations but that mixed messaging had actually seen some people rebook.

"We're very cautious about whether our bookings will be as strong as they look - it's the same as last year because we don't know how many will cancel," she said.

They have launched Sleep Out to Help Out at the Dial House, which offers deals on rooms that see last-minute cancellations.

"Most hospitality aspects expect to make a loss in January because it's just a quiet month - but you can get through it and pay the bills thanks to December," she added. "There will be a lot of small businesses in this industry wondering as to how on earth they'll go into a bleak January after a dismal December."

Eastern Daily Press: City pubs and restaurants will be hoping for a busy season over the Christmas period.City pubs and restaurants will be hoping for a busy season over the Christmas period. (Image: PA Wire/PA Images)