President’s Report – February 2024

President’s Report – February 2024

In what was an extremely positive day for our industry, last month saw our award season kick off with the launch of the Irish Restaurant Awards at the Marker Hotel in Dublin. Sponsored again this year by our media partner The Irish Times, the nomination process was opened and ran until closing on January 31st. 

It has been great to see that the Irish Restaurant Awards continue to be extremely well supported by the public. We are delighted to announce we have received the highest number of nominations to date for the 2024 campaign with over 161,000 public votes. In a time when there seems to be so little to be positive about, the Irish Restaurant Awards provide a great opportunity for staff and customers alike to celebrate the establishments that they love to work in and eat in. It also provides us with the opportunity to celebrate our sector and all the good it has to offer. 

Moving from positive to more negative news, we have unfortunately continued to see an increasing amount of closures with over 300 since July of 2023. The Government, however, is finally starting to listen to us. On Wednesday, January 17th, our CEO, Adrian Cummins, myself and colleagues from the RAI’s council met with Minister Simon Coveney and his Department at a meeting in Government buildings. 

At the meeting, we had a very open and frank conversation about the difficulties facing our sector. We presented our five-point plan for recovery, but our main focus was to emphasise the impact that the additional 4.5% VAT hike is having on our businesses. We also addressed the impact of the minimum wage increase and the wage inflation it is causing, along with warehoused tax issue, the sick pay entitlement days increase and the upcoming introduction of pension auto-enrolment. Minister Coveney agreed to revert to us in the coming weeks with a support package for our industry. 

In the days that followed that meeting, more and more media coverage highlighted the immense number of closures in our industry and, as a result, other politicians started to come out in favour of a split VAT rate for food-led businesses. The conversation around VAT9 is certainly back on the table and, in the past few days, Fine Gael and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have even acknowledged that such a split is possible.
Unfortunately, it seems inevitable that more and more restaurants will end up failing before anything substantial is done to ensure long-term viability for our industry. We have wind in our sales, however, and hopefully, in the coming weeks and months, we will get the good news that we all so badly need. For now, keep your heads up.

Yours in catering, 

Paul Lenehan

President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

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