President’s Introduction – May

Snow at the end of April now that’s a first! I really do hope we get a summer for 2016.

In the past few months, I’ve seen people who visit Ireland are generally more positive – especially when they visit the food and hospitality industry. The country is slowly seeing a slight claw back and we as restaurateurs will keep working hard to ensure we give the best possible service and experience to these valued customers and the general public. We continually offer value for money and we must continue to get the message out about the value to be found today in restaurants across the Ireland. So, get promoting and push your business to the max over the next few busy months!

I’m afraid I have to bring to your attention the fact that some voices have spoken about yet another possible increase in minimum wage. The association and I are adamant that now is not the time for this to be looked at. As you are aware since 1st January 2016, the minimum wage increased by 8% to €9.15 per hour to make it the second highest minimum wage in Europe after Luxembourg. A lot of members may not be aware of the following which may be of benefit; it works out at €10.72 per hour when you take in to account PRSI contributions and holiday pay over the year. We as an industry can’t keep absorbing all of these increases.  The average restaurant owner simply cannot afford wage increases year on year, hence why the RAI and myself have called for a freeze on the minimum wage for a period of five years. The tax and welfare system should be used to put money into people’s pockets. The notion of pushing up wage costs at this juncture fails to recognise the business realities in what is still a very challenging economic environment. Some points to ponder on which will affect us all if wages are increased;

  1. Destroy competitiveness as we will have to up prices…..
  2. Decrease job expansion leading to possible closures of businesses who are already struggling across rural Ireland.
  3. It will destroy Ireland’s recent gains as a value for money destination.
  4. One of the most things that I’m worried about is it will effect youth employment.

The restaurant sector acts as a stepping stone for young people to gain their first job. If the environment isn’t right for restauranteurs to create new jobs the biggest losers in the minimum wage debate will be young people. Enough of our young and talented people emigrated over the last number of years. We cannot create a situation where this happens again.

Since the reduction in the VAT rate in 2011 from 13.5% to 9%, the foodservice and accommodation industry have created employment of 32,000 jobs and it is the growing government that need to take this into account.

Given the still fragile nature of Ireland’s recovery and the difficult environment which Restaurant sector still finds itself in, increasing The National Minimum Wage now will have a push through effect on wages up the line, also, let’s not forget how seasonal this business really is. Restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open and come winter they will close. Have we already forgot what we have gone through in the last seven years? The ability to increase prices is still very limited in the sector and with many of the costs of doing business under pressure, the sector continues to be characterised by tight margins and challenging trading conditions.

We all need to play our part in the lobbying and campaigning side of things as members, so I am asking each and every one of you to be aware of the above ensure your local political representatives know the issues that affect us as restaurant owners.

Now for some good news -The Food Oscars! The judging is over, the votes are cast and I hope you have your suits and gúnas picked. The 8th Annual Irish Restaurant Awards will be held on the 16th of May in the DoubleTree by Hilton in Ballsbridge. I hope you have your tickets as last year a lot of people were disappointed. Not because they didn’t win an award but because they left it too late and the event sold out. Book your tickets now! I must say I really admire the work the office team and Adrian carry out to ensure this event is the most well recognised awards within our industry run it’s truly outstanding. Furthermore I would like to thank you, our sponsors and suppliers for your participation and dedication to the awards process.

I look forward to seeing you all on the 16th May and if there’s anything the association or I can do to assist your business over the summer, be sure to let us know. We are here to serve you throughout the year.

Finally, the Restaurant Association’s Golf Society had our first outing in Corrstown Golf Club with a fine turnout of 25 players. Unfortunately, we had to return to the club house due to extremely wet weather. I must thank Corrstown GC for the Hospitality shown to us. We are returning again here on the 23rd of May for the inter-restaurant competition.

With membership at just €99 and special discounts for RAI members, it really is great value. It looks likely to be a very exciting year for all golf fans. To join the RAI golf society, please download a membership booking form here and return with payment details to  or 11 Bridge Court, Citygate, St. Augustine Street, Dublin 8 at your earliest convenience. New members welcome. I would encourage new and existing members of the RAI to join us at our event on Monday 23rd of May at Corrstown Golf Club, Tee Times are from 11.20 am -12.40 pm Call the office on 01-6779901 or email  to book your Tee Time.


Anthony Gray

President of the Restaurants Association Ireland

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