Edinburgh launches new campaign to revive city centre work gatherings

Business chiefs and city leaders have issued a rallying call for people to return to the heart of Edinburgh to socialise again with colleagues.

The Thai Express Kitchen recently opened at the St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson Photography
The Thai Express Kitchen recently opened at the St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson Photography

Companies and employees who have switched to “hybrid” ways of working are being urged to help kick-start the city centre’s recovery from nearly two years of Covid curbs.

More than 35 hospitality operators will stage special promotions and events next month as part of a campaign that will also encourage friends and families to reunite in the city centre.

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The campaign will highlight a host of new city centre operators in the likes of the St James Quarter, St Andrew Square and the West End, as well as encourage the return of business breakfasts and lunches, as well as post-work gatherings.

Roddy Smith is chief executive of the city centre business group Essential Edinburgh.

The pleas to support cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels have been made ahead of an expected announcement today on the further easing of Covid restrictions in Scotland.

However, the business group behind the Eat Out Edinburgh campaign has admitted it does not expect the number of office workers to return to pre-pandemic levels in the city centre. But Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said a boost was expected from the ongoing transformation of offices to meet demand for flexible working.

He said: “We want to re-engage the whole city to come back and spend money.

“We have nearly 40 hospitality businesses involved in a campaign to entice back residents and visitors, but especially office workers.

The Cannonball Restaurant & Bar is at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

“If someone is coming in three days a week rather than five, I think they’ll be more likely to want to meet someone for lunch or go for a drink after work in future.

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“Rather than bringing a sandwich into the office, we’re looking for people to support our world-class hospitality industry.

“We want to show people what the city centre has to offer and encourage them to use it for far more than sitting behind a desk.

“A lot of people haven’t been in the city centre at all over the last two years, but there have been huge changes, with so many places opening up.

“We’ve created a lot more capacity which we need to fill. For those businesses to thrive, we need to fill them throughout the year. We can’t just rely on tourists.”

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Pauline Weddell, area leader for Edinburgh at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “City centre businesses have suffered disproportionately over the last two years, with hospitality and retail in particular having faced unpredictable periods of restrictions and a fall in demand due to the absence of large numbers of office workers.”

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce chief executive Liz McAreavey said: “Our city centre is where many people come together to shop and socialise as well as to work, and enjoying all that it has to offer in terms of its restaurants, cafes and bars is a huge part of the experience.”

Council leader Adam McVey said every effort was being made to best support the city centre, which he described as “one of the most resilient in the UK”.

He said: “We fully support this campaign to encourage local people to get back out there and enjoy everything our city centre has to offer. We’re very aware lockdown restrictions have had serious repercussions on many city centres businesses.”