President’s Report – April 2024

President’s Report – April 2024

Happy Easter, everybody. I hope all of your restaurants and establishments are good and busy and also that the frequency of these bank holiday weekends isn’t diluting trade.

As the clocks spring forward, our evenings have become brighter and, with that, I feel a sense of optimism in the air. Last month saw our Taoiseach give his notice. It should be noted that, over the years, the outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was a friend of the Restaurants Association. He recognised us for how important we are and facilitated us at every call. I wish him well as he steps down and makes room for Simon Harris.

I spoke with Harris a few months ago when he visited Kildare town with his family and, from that conversation I had with him, I know that he supports and is in favour of VAT at 9% for food-led businesses. The RAI will soon meet with our new Taoiseach to highlight this and the other issues that are facing our sector, giving him a real sense of how things are for our industry.

It cannot be stressed enough that our message is not being lost on the politicians. They are all well aware of how hard things are for us and, with the right information, updated reports and strategies, I believe that the message will land in time for the 9% VAT rate to be reinstated in the next Budget in October.

In the meantime, the Restaurants Association of Ireland will continue our fight and our lobbying. The grassroots VAT9 social media page recently set up by a group of restaurateurs from West Cork will also help highlight the many issues we are facing. I ask all of you to support that grassroots campaign and its message.

I’m sure you are all probably aware that this year’s Irish Restaurant Awards season is in full swing. We have already visited three provinces and our final regional event will take place in Ulster next week. With over 160,000 nominees for this year’s awards, it is our biggest year yet. The turnout to the regional events has shown us that the awards and awards season is going from strength to strength, which has been very rewarding to see.

As well as our visit to Ulster, over the next month, we will also have two days in the Dublin Bar Academy for the judging of the Best Cocktail Experience category. Finally, this year’s awards season will then culminate on May 20th at the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road. It truly is always a great time of the year, when so many of our industry come together to celebrate the best of who we are and the best of what our industry stands for. It’s undoubtedly tough to find a good news story at the moment in the hospitality sector but the awards season allows us to do just that, something I don’t take for granted in these challenging times.

Yours in hospitality, 

Paul Lenehan

President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

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