HOSPITALITY businesses have spoken of “incredibly tough” times in the run-up to Christmas as figures show fewer Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole residents went into the office.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new Coronavirus restrictions following the spread of the Omicron variant - including advising those who can work from home to do so from Monday, December 13.

Francesca Silvestre from Espresso Kitchen in Bournemouth said her business has been 'hugely impacted' by the restrictions.

She said: "Obviously the virus is rampant at the moment and it's been constant isolating and testing and we're constantly short staffed. We are easily less than half our usual numbers in terms of takings, it's been really tough.

"There were talks about a lockdown and at least when we are locked down we can get some sort of support and everybody can have a break and have time to recoup and decide what we're doing, trying to operate at the moment is really hard.

"Locking down for us would have been the best option. They're increasing the tax on us as if everything has gone back to normal but we're still struggling more than ever.

"When they put more restrictions on the capacity and cleaning procedures you end up needing more staff to serve less customers, it's incredibly tough."

Ms Silvestre added: "Just be patient because there are people behind these businesses doing their absolute best with minimum resources, so keep supporting, don't take your favourite spots for granted because we've been open 10 years and we are questioning our future."

Most recent figures from Google, show activity in workplaces in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in the working week to December 17 was 29.8 per cent lower than during a five-week baseline period recorded before the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Institute of Directors said this has had an impact on business, and led to a drop in consumer demand at the "worst possible time" for some parts of the economy.

Kate Butterworth from Mighty Wieners said: "We have been quite badly impacted over the last few weeks due to the indecisions from the government, it kind of feels like they've told everybody to lockdown but they're not willing to actually say it because they don't want to give us any support or help.

"The biggest challenge for us is staff and wages, it's fantastic that they've given us this grant that has become available but that doesn't help us when it comes to having to keep our hard working amazing staff on when the government has scared the customers off.

"At least with previous lockdowns we've had furlough which has allowed us to retain our staff, if we had to reduce their hours because of lack of customers then we had furlough to fall back on whereas we don't have that now.

"As a business in December we were okay paying wages but I'm growing more and more concerned come January and February of potentially having to let staff go because we can’t afford to keep them on which is not something as a business owner I want to do.

"Looking at December last year and December this year we're down 40 to 50 per cent on where we were the year before in terms of customers, which is a huge loss of income.

"December is usually our bump which gives us enough money to cover the quieter January/February time but we haven't seen it this year."

A CBI spokesman said home-working brings significant economic cost by restricting trade for some businesses and impacting mental health.

He added: “Some economic activity is displaced to local areas, but it also leaves our town and city centres under real strain for retailers and hospitality.

“With the push for a booster rollout by the end of the year, the government should use the January 5 review to identify a new regime drawing on testing, Covid-secure workplaces and antivirals, to outline its intention for ending the push to work from home."

A Government spokesman said: “We’ve supported people’s jobs and incomes throughout the pandemic through our £400 billion package of support, and will continue to do so through our additional £1 billion support package.

“We will continue to look closely at all emerging evidence and will keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”