Welcome to your December newsletter. I am delighted to be writing this newsletter with our industry reopened rather than closed. We had an extremely difficult year and although it will be impossible to recoup the losses accumulated since March at least we can finish 2020 on a bit of a high. I am so very disappointed for those that have not been given the opportunity to open their pubs that do not serve food. It is certainly a very difficult time for those businesses, they are a vital ingredient to our industry and my thoughts are with them during this time. Do your very best to make the most of the next couple of weeks we are grateful to be open and we have an enormous part to play in the recovery of our industry.

The challenges that we face over the coming weeks and months are monumental. It is vital that we prioritise the safety of our employees and customers during this period. This reopening from an operating perspective poses much more challenging scenarios than when we reopened in the summer. The cold weather creates extra problems such as customers looking for cloak storage for coats & umbrellas etc. Restaurants will be colder than normal as the odd window and door may have to be left open depending on your ventilation. Heating bills will certainly sky rocket and customers may not be happy with a cold draft but unfortunately, these are the measures we take in keeping the virus at bay. The 11:30pm closing time is causing many problems for us. It creates a bottleneck for taxi drivers and an opportunity for people to carpool back to a house for a night cap. A more pragmatic approach would be to relax the time restriction and allow guests to drip out of each restaurant. Social occasions will happen regardless. It is better that they socialise under the watchful eyes of we the professionals in controlled and highly regulated environments. It is a safer way for us to operate.

Last month I met with Failte Ireland to express the difficulties and harsh reality that our industry is facing at present. Many businesses have huge financial problems, the cash burn is very evident as many have not been able to reopen their doors this December. Failte Ireland said there has been a delay in drawing down the adaptation grant due to the influx of last minute applicants creating a bottleneck. We have been assured that they are getting through them and they are nearly there. We also met with Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland regarding the future of our industry. We are pushing ahead now, and the conversations are very much about vaccines and the recovery of our sector. Banks are knocking on the doors of business owners and landlords as moratoriums have expired. It is my hope that there is urgency between government and financial institutions to ensure that businesses are protected and guarantees are put in place. The CRSS has not had the desired impact in helping restaurants and I feel that the grant should be increased, and it should also be more accessible. Many businesses are on the cusp of getting the grant, trading slightly above 25% will make them ineligible for funding. We have highlighted all the issues surrounding CRSS and are awaiting word back from revenue. A major issue is the businesses that will not receive the payment if they choose not to open in the current environment. I think this is gravely unfair on seasonal businesses that have lost most of their busiest periods of the year.

Getting staff back to work has been an industry wide problem. An unintended consequence of the double PUP payment. We have welcomed the fact that this was cleared up and employees will still receive the payment if they were out of work during the lockdown. lack of skilled staff particularly chefs from what I see from my own recruiting experiences is the worst it has ever been. More cash burn in recruiting costs it is the leak that has never been fixed. It is a problem that is not going to be fixed in the immediate future which brings me to my next point. There has never been a better time to train your staff in house. We have the wage subsidy at our disposal and we as business owners have the knowledge to upskill our staff in all departments. We will not be importing chefs any time soon until the vaccine has been administered to the population and so I feel that a real push needs to come from businesses in upskilling our teams in house.

I would like to wish all our members a Happy Christmas & a much happier new year than that of 2020. Do try to take a break and look after yourselves this December. I look forward to chatting to you in January.

Best Wishes,

Mark McGowan -President