Welcome to my October newsletter. As we roll into the Autumn, the first Storm of the season “Lorenzo” paid us a visit. Met Éireann had been sending reports out of a ferocious storm of significant force that had Ireland in its path. The warning system was then downgraded to an orange over the west and yellow in the east. The yellow warning was nothing more than a windy afternoon. The country practically came to a standstill. I understand that Lorenzo changed its path and that originally there was a chance of significant damage in certain areas. It is my personal opinion that a new system should be in place that protects businesses. Possibly just an orange and red system because I am convinced that yellow is interpreted as a warning by the public and in turn our consumers which damages business in so many ways. The boy who cried wolf springs to mind. City centres were perfectly safe to walk around yet diners were reluctant to take any chances. Travel advice could be a better way of communicating the dangers of a yellow warning which may be a more pro-business approach.
October is always a busy month for The Restaurants Association of Ireland as we continue to consistently engage with TDs and representatives to help them to understand our industry’s economic status in the hope that we can influence decisions that will bring down the cost of doing business. This month in Buswells Hotel we met over 70 TDs and Senators. We gave each one our Pre-Budget Submission which is a comprehensive document with contributions from Economist Jim Power. Inside that document we have all of the statistics for our sector which are based on industry surveys and Central Statistics Office figures. Our National Council which includes restaurant owners from across the country were present at our briefing of our Pre-Budget Submission in Buswells and we updated Oireachtas members on the hardships many of us have endured since the VAT jumped by 50%. We have seen many closures over the past few months. Many of these restaurants are high profile which has come as a big shock to many of us. A “It will never happen to me” attitude will not work. It can happen and it will happen unless we pull together and start voicing our hardships to our local representatives. We need to be engaging with them not just at Budget time but on a regular basis. It is the responsibility of all of us to protect our business and the Irish Tourism Sector in every way possible.
The VAT rate for Tourism and Hospitality was again at the top of our agenda at our Oireachtas briefing and the talk of splitting the VAT rate between accommodation and food was also discussed at great lengths. Insurance, commercial rates, recruitment, training, apprenticeships, work permits and the costs involved with keeping up with the ever increasing compliance measures in a labour intensive environment are all effecting the bottom line. These costs simply need to be reduced in order for us to survive. Tomorrow’s Budget announcement will be an indication of whether Minister Donohoe is a supporter of tourism and small businesses or not. The facts are there and cannot be ignored, tourism needs support in the coming months after a flat summer and I personally will not be happy with anything less than a reduced VAT rate back to 9% for food!
Failte Ireland’s Taste The Island is in full flow and it is great to see so many restaurants on board with this movement. The Restaurants Association of Ireland is a proud partner of this movement and we are hoping that more restaurants will get behind this initiative supporting local Irish produce. I visited The Dingle Food Festival over the weekend, and it is very evident that we are not short on quality when it comes to local produce. There were over 2,000 entries into the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards this year and Dingle brought out 350 of the best food and drink producers in the country. The Dingle Food Festival is a great opportunity to network and meet suppliers. It is a well-run event suitable for all ages.
That brings this month’s update to a close I wish you the very best and I will be in touch with you all over the next few weeks. Hopefully the conversation will be more positive in regard to a pro-business budget.
Mark Mc Gowan
President = Restaurants Association of Ireland