Firstly I would like to congratulate all of the winners and nominees in our 11th annual Irish Restaurant Awards held in the Burlington Hotel on May 8th. It was a fantastic evening, an evening that celebrated everything special in our industry. It is a night we can network with our peers and enjoy on the other side of the Maitre D desk. All of our winners are well deserved and I wish all restaurants, pubs, gastropubs, food heroes and more, the best of luck for next year. Information on nominations for next year will be released towards the end of the year, so keep an eye on the Irish Restaurant Awards social media and www.irishrestaurantawards.com
I would like to open up this newsletter with glowing positivity, but with the feedback from regional meetings country wide in the past few weeks, it seems that the first quarter of 2019 is down on last year. It is clear now that the 50% rise in VAT that came in January would be the largest contributor to this downturn in business. The local rates increase is also playing its part in the rising cost of doing business. We have had unexpected closures of well known restaurants in recent weeks and I fear that there will be more to come unless changes are made and relief is given to the sector. I am calling for a reversal of the decision to increase the VAT before it becomes too late. Many restaurants have tried absorbing the VAT increase, to offer value for money which is squeezing profits and is unsustainable long term. It is vital that we get costs down in order to retain a competitive edge from a local and tourism perspective. I am urging our members to let your voice be heard and contact your local TD and let them know what is happening on the ground.
Failte Ireland’s “Taste The Island” workshops have been rolled out across the country, The Restaurants Association of Ireland has liaised with Fáilte Ireland on this initiative and I am calling all of our members to embrace this celebration of Irish food and drink. It will not cost us anything; it is a collaborative strategy focusing on everything Irish. We are an island of fertile lands, fine pastures and beautiful landscapes. Our producers are supplying us with an array of ingredients. We are the artists and it is up to us to create locally inspired menus to make this initiative a success. We have a very important role to play in our nation’s tourism offering. What we do now will reflect on our food and drink culture for generations to come. I have no doubt that this initiative will keep bums on seats.
The Swing-gate incident with TD Maria Bailey in The Dean Hotel confirmed for me that this claim culture in Ireland is a calamity, the only reason this case was withdrawn was through the power of the national media and the voice of the public on social media. People are finally starting to get it; the public are tired and weary in regards to this claim culture. This government needs to make a show of solidarity with Irish business and take us more seriously when it comes to stamping out spurious claims and to drive down these insurance costs before there are more closures.
I have just returned from the 78th general assembly of HOTREC in Helsinki which is a collaboration of hospitality associations across Europe. The skills shortages are not just an Irish problem it is European wide and it is further afield too. We will have to go outside of Europe to obtain culinary and front of house skill sets required. South American countries have a large amount of unemployed skilled hospitality staff and they are ready to come to Ireland. With a current processing time of 11 weeks the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation need to do more to cut this time and apply resources to speed up work permit applications.
To conclude this month’s presidents report. It is my hope that with summer upon us, business will pick up. I hope you have a very busy period and you keep your head above water. Thank you for your time.
Mark Mc Gowan