President’s Report – March 2023

Happy March,

The VAT the VAT the VAT… 

For the last few months, we have been on and on to you all to keep the pressure on at a local level. We asked you to speak to your local TD’s and counsellors at every opportunity. The result is there for everyone to see. The campaign spearheaded by our CEO, Adrian Cummins, the team in the office to canvas on our behalf and backed up by you all at a local level proved that the sustained pressure finally paid off.  

It took to the final minute, but we got it over the line and a big thanks must go to everyone. It was a combined effort, and the result was one we all needed. The six month extension to the 9% VAT rate is vital for the sector. Government has stated that it’s the very last time it will be extended, but we will never say never as businesses are still under huge pressure and closures are unfortunately inevitable. We will keep the fight to the government, and I urge you to continue to inform your local representatives about the struggles of doing business and about the enormous costs associated with same.  

The amended Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS) is also extremely welcomed, in order to help more restaurants to qualify for it, the threshold for qualification will be cut from the current 50% increase in electricity or gas costs compared to the same period a year ago, to a 30% increase. A further extension and additional alterations are expected to be put forward in the upcoming Finance Bill.   

February was a good month from what I can see all around. I know from around my own businesses, they all saw an increase in business compared to that of last year. For the first time in over three years, we can compare a year back from month on month. All other months were impacted one way or another with COVID. The addition of the St. Brigid’s Bank Holiday definitely played its part in kick starting the month. Normally its Valentine’s Day that we have to wait for, but the early start to the month was great for business. Having Valentine’s Day early in the week also provided a great boost to the month. Midweek was full and the weekend was busier than normal. All in all, it provided for well needed revenue.  

I’m afraid to say it at risk of jinxing myself but is it getting easier to get staff. We are definitely seeing more responses to advertised job vacancies. The last few years and the knock-on effect of COVID has starved us of a generation of potential college-going staff to work our bars and restaurants. Finding young chefs remains by far the biggest challenge for all of us. Unfortunately, no amount of day release programs and apprenticeship programs can solve the fact that we just can’t get young staff into kitchens. Years ago, we all staffed our weekends with culinary arts staff, off the weekends. That’s no more.  

To do my bit, I have contacted local schools and offered to talk to transition year students to present the same picture that was presented to me when I was 16. 28 years on, I love what I do and have never thought of doing anything different. If young people are to feel excited about entering the catering world it’s up to us to sell it to them.  Just a thought… 

Yours in catering, 

Paul Lenehan 

Ready to become a member?

Find out more about the benefits of memberships
with the Association here.