President’s Report – November 2023

President’s Report – November 2023

The clocks have gone back and winter is setting in. Unfortunately, we have been witnessing huge changes in weather patterns in recent times and, for those of you affected by the flooding in Middleton, Cork city, Waterford, Rosslare and various other locations –  my heart goes out to you. It is  the last thing you needed to be dealing with in what are already hard times.

Indeed, for most of us, 2023 has been an extraordinarily difficult year. The difficulties of the years before the Covid-19 pandemic and the years of the pandemic itself actually seem insignificant in comparison. I’m not sure when things are going to change – all of our hard work seems to be in vain. It can be hard for people to understand how difficult the current situation is as, on the face of things, business seems to be quite good, people are out and about and, in certain locations, I’ve heard restaurateurs say that business is, in fact, very good. However, each and every one of them still has to pay their September and October VAT bills. This is  when reality will really kick in.

What will the Government do for us then? The harm that the 13.5% VAT is going to bring about will be like nothing we have seen before. I said it last month, but the Government officials responsible for making this decision have no idea what they have done. They are deluded. We have already seen an escalation of closures as a direct consequence. I’m conscious and aware of each and every one of them brought to my attention. The harm that this is doing to our industry is unquantifiable. The livelihoods of so many are being ruined.

Many of the challenges we face are not confined to Ireland. I attended HOTREC’s (Association of Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs and Cafes and similar establishments in Europe) conference in Brussels last week where hoteliers and restaurateurs gathered to discuss a wide range of topics that affected our sector. Most of the people that I spoke to mentioned the same challenges and difficulties that we are witnessing – energy prices, the cost of doing business and the staffing crisis are all common trends. However, most of them do not have the same VAT rate that we have. They were shocked to hear that a 50% increase of our VAT rate was introduced. We will fight on and keep bringing the message that 9% is the right rate for food-led businesses to political stakeholders.

This month will see the return of the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s Annual Conference and President’s Dinner at Carton House in county Kildare. We haven’t had a conference since 2019, before Covid, and the theme of this year’s Conference is ‘Overcoming Challenges: Embracing a New Era for Hospitality.’ The conference is on Monday, November 13th and the dinner will take place that evening. It would be great to see as many of you there as possible. It is times like this that we need to come together to discuss the common issues that affect all of us. It is an opportunity for people to meet up and catch up.

We look forward to seeing you all there.

Yours in hospitality,

Paul Lenehan

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