RAI Presidents Report January 2017

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As the song says “What’s another year?”  It’s hard to believe that this is my third last President’s report which I have to say I’ll miss a little bit . It only seems like yesterday that I wrote my first President’s report and can’t believe that I’m going into my final 3 months. To say it has been busy would be an understatement! I’ve clocked up serious kilometres between land and air, but I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every minute.

It has been a great honour to represent you and the association as president. With membership still growing, we are a very strong voice within our industry. We contribute 3 billon euro to the Irish economy each year and represent well over 80,000 jobs within our sector and we have over 2000 members in the association, that’s some achievement.

We, as restaurateurs, have played a vital role in the recovery of this country while keeping our businesses open. The Government needs to respect this and show our industry the support it well and truly deserves over the next five years. So please keep talking to your local TDs and make our industry and business grow.

2016 was a very good year for Irish food. The Restaurants Association was delighted to see such significant growth in our membership. The success of the Irish Restaurant Awards helped celebrate some of the people and places who have made 2016 a more positive year for the industry and 2017 will be no different. The Awards nomination period kicks off again on January 11th!

In addition to the fact that our restaurants offer great value for money with Irish produce being pushed to forefront, our artisan producers have all prospered. As a result of this, our country has gained in stature as a recognised food destination of the world and our food culture continues to develop right throughout Ireland.

As the President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland I urged that the Government must acknowledge rural Ireland and help with its recovery and growth. They must address the challenges we face in the economy. They now must tackle the issues we face in rural Ireland and understand that the rest of the country does actually exist beyond the Red Cow Roundabout.

I have a platform to discuss local issues that affect our membership and growth, and this brings me to talk about my home town and rural Ireland’s development. Over the past two years, I’ve seen first-hand what the previous and current governments have done for rural Ireland; Unfortunately, I have to say we have not seen any growth in the north west and it’s about time we did. The government has completely turned its back on rural Ireland and still continues to forget us. It’s now time to shout stop in 2017 and with Brexit looming I’m very afraid for our members and job creation.

I urge you to voice any issues that directly affect our livelihoods and families.  I along with others continue to fight these battles but I urge you as members to be more vocal. You must be ready to stand beside us when called upon. We will definitely have some major challenges in 2017 so be ready as the VAT at 9% will certainly be scrutinised and with more increases in minimum wage along with calories on menus showing its ugly head again and add in our shortages of chefs and Brexit, it will certainly be a challenging one so ensure you are up for it.

This year our AGM, Restaurants Symposium and President’s Dinner will be held in the World famous Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo on Monday the 6th of March .  The symposium promises to be a great day with an impressive line-up of speakers. This is an important date for your diary and your attendance will be appreciated.

I urge you as members to try and unwind after a busy Christmas and take January as a time to reflect, refuel and recharge. Remember, it’s not what we eat between Christmas and New Year that we should worry about – it’s what we eat between New Year and Christmas! Ps. you don’t need to count calories to know that.

Finally, we must never forget all of our fellow restauranteurs who have suffered in any form of illness the last year, we continue to support them all. You are all inspiring to us, and we wish you well in your recovery for 2017. I salute you all as you continue to fight your different battles; you are a credit to our industry and association.

Happy New Year

Sláinte

Anthony Gray

President Restaurants Association of Ireland