Now that Christmas has and come and gone, the New Year has brought us to the day no one in our industry saw coming so soon, when the VAT was increased back up to 13.5%.
When this temporary measure was put in place our industry was on its knees due to the global economic crash. I feel we are back on our knees now and this is down to the government and their inability to see what it takes to stay in business today. When the reduction to 9% happened, we would have never forecasted the extent of increases on the cost of doing business in Ireland. We have seen insurance premiums increased by over 50%, rent and rates spiral out of control, labour costs increase and an increasing shortage of skilled labour in our industry combined with the uncertainty of Brexit and the implications a no deal will have on the costs of goods. I do feel like a broken record but when we presented our report on the cost of doing business to the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation in December 2017, I really felt that they understood this. Obviously they did not; as we are yet to see the implementation of the few recommendations we made to reduce the costs on businesses in our industry.
Despite this fight to recover after the crash, despite increasing costs and skills shortages, during this period our industry has enhanced the reputation of Irish food abroad tenfold. We have created the strongest link between local supplier and kitchen and have showcased Irish produce like never before. We gained international recognition, increasing our Michelin starred restaurants year on year and we have regained our reputation for value for money.
We will fight back from this and we should continue to fight this increase in the cost of doing business and again I would urge Restaurateurs to keep communicating your concerns to your local TDs and remember elections are on the way.
Next week we will launch our 10th Irish Restaurant awards which have grown from humble beginnings. These awards have become the number one awards in our Industry. It is the only awards where your customers get the opportunity to get involved; the awards cover all levels of the industry from fine-dining restaurants to your local pub. What has proved to be a hugh success has been the regional awards night these casual affairs give business owners an opportunity to bring their staff as a thank you for their hard work and loyalty, it is also a chance to meet your suppliers and possible new suppliers in a more relaxed environment. I know the team in the RAI will continue to make the awards the success they have been in previous years. Voting launches this Wednesday 9th January 2019, keep an eye on the Irish Restaurant Awards website and social media accounts as regional dates will be announced soon.
On a final note my last call of duty will be on the 9th of April at our AGM and Presidents Dinner which will be held in the spectacular Europe Hotel, Kerry this year. We are in the final preparations of organising our line-up of speakers and should have the full details of the event coming soon.