President’s Report – April 2023

The Irish Restaurant Award season is now in full swing. Since the last time I wrote this monthly update we have visited all four provinces. This year the Award bandwagon has travelled to Limerick’s Strand Hotel for the Munster Awards, the Kilashee House Hotel in Naas for the Leinster Awards, the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan for the Ulster Awards and finally to The Radisson Hotel in Sligo for the Connaught Awards.

Record numbers attending the four regional awards has seen the awards this year reaching its widest audience. With over 30,000 more public nominations than last year with a total of 130,000 makes the Irish Restaurant Awards the most inclusive hospitality awards event there is. Open to all restaurants, cafes, pubs &, members and non-members of the RAI, the awards process is going from strength to strength, culminating at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge on Monday the 15th of May when the Provincial and All Ireland winners will be announced. For years this event had been known as the Food Oscars, a fitting name where the best of the best are honoured.

The 1st quarter of 2023 is behind us and I have to say that I’m getting bag mixed bag of emotions from around the country. There are plenty of establishments delighted with trade in the first 3 months of the year but equally there are many out there that are finding things very difficult. More so in the areas where the normally busy city and town centre hotspots are. City centre restaurants and cafes continue to be hugely effected by the work from home policy adopted by many firms. The growth and positivity now coming from the more suburban venues where trade is strong and more consistent than ever. The volatile and unpredictability of trade in these normal hotspots is very concerning and its where we are seeing the most at risk.

Going forward we all need to be aware that from the 1st of May this year those with warehoused VAT will see the total of that value incur a 3% interest rate. Even though these businesses won’t have to set up repayment plans for another year the money now outstanding will be hit from next month. I have a feeling that this fact is not known to all and I fear it will cause some concern when its realised.

We are all under huge financial pressure as it is. With the VAT going up in September, the next six months will undoubtedly see more closures. This, as I’ve always been saying, needs to be highlighted at all levels. At both a local and national level, talk talk talk to your local representatives. It’s the only way to ensure our message gets through.

Its no secret that finding staff has been a huge problem for us all, the reputation of our industry and the challenges we face trying to make it one where young people see it as a potential career is constant. After recently visiting a large family resort in Longford I have been re-invigorated, staff can be found and staff can be trained. Its clear from my latest experience that it takes very little to be nice. Training is key, now more than ever, but it’s not impossible. People now are not the same as they were 10 years ago, just as they weren’t 20 years ago. Generations change and with that means we also have too must change. We need to find different ways to motivate and educate the next generation of hospitality workers but at the end of the day its not hard to teach them to be nice. With a smile on their face and the ability to communicate, something we can all teach, will go a long way to sell what we are selling. An old saying I heard years ago comes to mind, “stop working in your business and start working on your business” this is something that I’ve always tried to do. As important as it is to work in your business you cant deny the importance of working on your business. In these times that old saying is more important than ever…

Yours in catering,

Paul Lenehan

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