Welcome to my Presidents Newsletter for March, I hope there were more positives than negatives to take from the month of February which I know was a huge challenge for many restauranteurs. We have been through an election and it looks like there is a stalemate and a possibility of a second general election this year. We released our manifesto prior to the election and the feedback in relation to the VAT from our election candidates has been quite negative. As individuals we need to drive it home on a local level and continuously let your local TD know the full effects of the 4.5% rise in VAT as we have completed a full financial year since its increase and the consequences have been the end game for many.
The recent weather has also been devastating especially in the West of the country, many businesses have suffered with flooding, power failures and of course the lack of footfall and to top it off we are landed with a new challenge with the Corona Virus. Already reports are coming in country wide of cancellations in restaurants, I can see already the impact it is having on my room occupancy and I am fearful of the damage it will do in the coming months. Last years’ CSO figures showed a moderate increase in visitors, however we await the full figures for 2019 in the coming weeks. I foresee an enormous decrease in visitor numbers this year because of Covid 19. I feel our insurance companies should be able to front up and cover any ensuing losses to businesses, these losses are unforeseen and may be devastating depending on how serious the situation gets. As an industry in this current situation it is even more important that we follow Failte Irelands lead on its domestic campaign #keepdiscovering. I recently attended the launch for #keepdiscovering and it could be our saviour if we collaborate and drive domestic tourism, I think that a campaign like this will be beneficial for many years to come and it will encourage #staycation, after all we take much of this beautiful island for granted.
Awards Season is in full flow and I had the honour of presenting the Leinster Awards in Knightsbrook in Trim last week. We had almost 800 guests at the Regional Awards. It was fantastic to see the joy on people’s faces upon receiving their awards and it is something that will resonate with me for a long time which is the importance of these awards. There are many young hospitality staff that are kick starting their careers and to see the enthusiasm and real sense of pride from them is very encouraging for the future. Congratulations to all of the winners and I am looking forward to meeting you all on 18th May for the All Ireland – Irish Restaurant Awards in the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road. On 10th March I will be travelling to the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan for the Ulster Regional Awards followed by the Munster Regional Awards on the 24th March and the Connaught Regional Awards on the 31st March all of which I am really looking forward to.
Last month Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council announced its intention to ban all single use plastics from business in the district. There will be a fine put in place of €500 imposed on any food business that serves single use plastics. In my opinion our association should have been afforded the opportunity to sit down with the management of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council County Council and set up a dialogue and possibly a full business consultation on how we can make this work instead of the aggressive approach of a fine. In the general scheme of things, we all want to ensure that single use plastics are eradicated, and our environment is protected. There are also a lot of moving parts in a restaurant and we need to ensure businesses have available alternatives to ensure a smooth transition and a transition like this cannot be completed overnight. I have been in touch with many restauranteurs and I also have witnessed bin collections. Recyclable waste has been mixed with general waste on a regular basis. I also had a representative of my local council in my door flashing a badge and walking through my bin area ensuring there is segregation in place, yet it is all being mixed upon collection regardless. We pay our rates, we pay for waste disposal and now Repak are knocking on our doors also. It is time to bring everybody to the table, lower the cost of waste disposal and ensure best practice across the board. The Food Dudes primary schools initiative to promote healthy eating is giving our children an introduction to new vegetables in a single use plastic bag which is being sent home for disposal in the house hold. On one hand it is promoting healthy eating and on the other is giving the wrong message in terms of single use plastic. What will happen to Primary Schools in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council regarding fines. The message needs to be consistent and collaboration between all parties is vital.
Spring is upon us, the weather will improve and no doubt business will pick up. Have a nice St Patricks Day. I look forward to seeing you at the awards.