RAI Presidents Report – March 2017

“And so it is, just like you said it would be, life goes easy on me, most of the time”


So here is my last ever Presidents report from a wet and windy Sligo but yet still magical and beautiful . Them two years went quick! I have to say that I enjoyed every minute representing you as members and the association as president. It has been a great honour to meet so many restaurateurs, food producers and supporters. It has shone a great light on Sligo while raised the profile of my two restaurants Eala Bhán / Tra Bán.


Over the past two years I have listened to all the challenges that we faced in our industry and met all your concerns head on. I did this with great passion and vigour. There certainly were times when you must stand up and be counted for and I feel I did that on many occasions while gaining respect along with the odd enemy which goes with the job.


But most importantly I fought for the retention of VAT at 9% into 2017 which was crucial not only for the sustainability of restaurants and businesses in the tourism sector but also for job creation and the continued growth of the economy. It is very important this stays in place with the challenges we face with Brexit looming. I must stress that we have contributed to the recovery of our nation. Tourism, hospitality and our food industry have played a massive role and we must never forget this.


Food, tourism, hospitality and us as restauranteurs delivers incomes and jobs in towns and cities in every corner of our country. The success of the lower rate of VAT is evident in the 80,000 new jobs that have been created since its introduction in 2011 along with the €3 billion we contribute to the government each year.


When I started my presidency in 2015, I hoped to see membership grow in the association to 1,500. It now stands at 2,100 and growing this proves that we certainly are a major voice for the hospitality industry. Furthermore, the Irish Restaurant Awards have seen the biggest number of nominations cast ever and I would like to thank you all for your efforts. Online nominations have grown from 9000 nominations in 2013 to over 88,000 nominations this year. Without your hard work, the restaurant landscape in Ireland would be very different. We have already dispatched the awards with 635 in attendance at the Lyrath Estate Kilkenny a great night was had congrats to all the winners.


As your President, I have seen growth across the country but parts of rural Ireland are still struggling due to the two-tier economy. More needs to be done to address this issue.


We still face many battles on all fronts and it is imperative that you keep raising your voices to your local TDs and county councillors, the chef shortage crises in this country is an ongoing problem and needs a coherent plan. As an Association, we have put in our own strategies in place with recruitment to tackle this issue but this should not be the case. We have taken on the environmental health officers and continue to prove inconsistency shown by them. All we want is to see a structured plan with continuity throughout.


Never be afraid to highlight any issues, we are your voice and will continue to fight each day for you as members while offering you incentives to enhance your business, we will ensure that your points are raised.


We still face some major challenges in our industry such as  Calories on menus,Local Authority Charges, Cost of Doing business, Work Permits, Commercial Rates,  Rising Rents, Excise Duty, Brexit, and Insurance Costs . To name but a few so beware. One of my major goals as president was to get home economics mandatory on the national curriculum.  This provides students with knowledge and skills which enables them to understand the dynamic of food. In practice Home Economics allows students to plan meals and make informed choices when shopping for food, to read food labels correctly and importantly to be able to cook nutritious meals for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the change in government did not help despite my continued lobbing I received a letter stating it will not be made compulsory on the junior cert curriculum and basically was kicked down the road. I will continue to fight for this regardlessly.


Now onto our new president I am thrilled to pass on the Presidents role to the very capable Liam Edwards from Jim Edwards Restaurant, Bar & Guesthouse in Kinsale, Co. Cork. Liam was born into the family business Jim Edwards and like myself has a young family. Liam will take up the position and will continue to Ensure that the challenges we face will be addressed. Liam’s restaurant is famous for steaks and fresh seafood and I am delighted to pass on the chain of office to this strong Cork man.


Finally, I would like to thank team RAI for all their help. You all are wonderful employees and work extremely hard for the association. Each one of you are all the epitome of professionalism. Thank you for the past two years anything I asked for was never too much. I was very proud to have such a great team, you all really deserve my appreciation and support. Thank you for all your enthusiasm and help. A Successful business is run by happy employees. Keep up the great work I will miss you all very much and wish you all continued success for the future.


One of the hardest questions posed to me in my role as president was asked by my 5 year old daughter Emily she ask me straight out why don’t we see you any more daddy your always in Dublin or away and quick as a flash her older sister Lauren who’s 7 said sure we will see him next year when he’s not president of Ireland anymore.  I wonder is this my next role!!


Anyway, that is it folks, from this proud Sligo man and past president of this great association. I will drop the mic and get back to seeing my family and continue to run my businesses and fight for continuous growth and the promotion of food in Sligo and Ireland.


Slan go foill,

Anthony Gray

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