Presidents Report – November 2020

Welcome to your November newsletter, 

As we enter the third week of level 5 restrictions and the rest of Europe follows suit, it seems likely that the level will only be reduced to level three restrictions. Outdoor dining is simply not an option for us and so a wintertime level three is in effect on par with level 5 for us in the Restaurant sector. We need a solution to enable indoor dining whether that be with increased distancing or some other mechanism that will allow us to trade while taking every precaution to reduce the risk of any spread. This should be viable with the financial supports in place, such as the employment wage subsidy. The Restaurants Association will do everything to try to bring our customers in from the cold so long as the numbers go in the right direction. From a mental health perspective, It is important for our customers to get out of the house and engage in much-needed social interaction, especially around the festive season. The weather has taken a turn for the worst and this is going to be an extremely tough time for many, there does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel and so I am hoping that NPHET will make the right decision when the time comes providing the numbers come down as expected.

The increase in EWSS is very much welcomed, this support has been very effective. It has enabled us to retain the link with our employees and ensure we can operate to some degree. However, I am struggling to understand some of the logic behind the criteria to avail of the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, which should be in place to assist with cashflow and keep creditors at bay. The CRSS could be an investment into the future of many restaurants if it was made more accessible to those that are at the threshold of trading at 25% of turnover and may feel it is in their best interest to just remain closed. In my own view it is essential that we do all we can to remain open, even if we are just balancing the books. As a business community, we have a responsibility to try and keep the wheels of the economy in motion, keep our staff motivated and keep our supply chain active. We are not only contributing to retaining our own staff but we are contributing to keeping our artisan suppliers, independent growers and bigger distributers afloat. I can also understand anybody that makes the decision to close because it is so very difficult to trade under these conditions regardless of financial support.

As businesses yoyo in and out of restrictions and staff are laid off, our workforce will lose faith in the industry’s potential to recover from this Pandemic. The industry will have lost its status as a secure job provider and a percentage of our workforce will choose alternative and more secure means of employment. Many of our workforce are young people and working towards mortgages which will never happen if working in the industry is considered unsecure employment by lenders. My fear is that we will suffer a massive shortage of skills over the next few years as we were already struggling before the pandemic hit us. A reinstatement of CERT would alleviate some of the pressure in attracting employees into the sector. If we continue to lose skilled hospitality individuals to this pandemic, it will jeopardise the shape of our culinary footprint in the coming years which is a significant driver to our international visits.

As we head into December I am urging our members to do two things. Firstly, contact your local TD and explain to them the hardships of trying to operate a restaurant outdoors in the depths of winter. We need to get the message out that jobs will be lost unless there is a pragmatic approach towards the restrictions that are forced upon us. The second message; communicate a “shop local” message to your customers through your social media pages. The entire business community needs to get behind this and start fighting for a share of the market.

I look forward to chatting to you all again in December, hopefully with our customers dining in the warmth of our restaurants.

Best Wishes,

Mark McGowan -President

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