Make a new year resolution to support your local hospitality business - Stephen Jardine

We are all feeling financial pressures right now but the survival of the places we love to eat and drink rests with us at the moment

It’s that time of year. The fridge is relatively empty, your trousers are a bit tight and everything points to a month of abstinence but this January, your country needs you. Well the hospitality sector certainly does.

2023 was a tough year for restaurants and bars with higher operating costs combining with lower public spending to create a perfect storm for an industry still struggling with issues resulting from by Brexit. The festive season usually brings the biggest boost of the year to turnover but last month came with alarm bells following the news that half of all workers wouldn’t be attending an office night out due to financial pressures.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Leading industry figures started looking ahead to the turn of the year with gloom and they proved to be right. Having staggered through the festive period, hospitality businesses have started falling like flies.

This week TV chef Simon Rimmer permanently closed his Midlands restaurant after 33 years in business. “Our landlords have increased our rent by in the region of 35 per cent. The cost of raw materials, the cost of heat, light and power, employing people and general food costs have meant that the business unfortunately has become unviable” he said.

On the same day Masterchef winner Tony Rodd shut his London restaurant blaming the cost of living crisis, increased energy bill and price increases from suppliers. On top of that Rodd said money issues for customers had reduced footfall making the business untenable.

For the past year UK hospitality businesses have been closing at a decade high rate of about a dozen a day but that figure is now skyrocketing as business pressures reach the precipice of January, always the quietest month of the year.

So what can be done? The long term solution is a cut to VAT. We have one of the highest rates of sales tax in Europe and on top of rising operating costs, it is strangling restaurant businesses. The Chief Executive of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls is lobbying government for change ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring statement in March.

Given the fiscal situation, a VAT reduction might seem unlikely but research for UK Hospitality suggests that a booming rather than struggling sector could increase it’s direct contribution to the UK economy by £29bn and create half a million new jobs by 2027. That’s a lot of people paying tax.

It’s important not to forget about the people. Simon Rimmer said his decision to close after three decades had been “heart breaking” while Tony Rodd hadn’t slept for days, agonising over the decision.

Hospitality is a brilliant sector but it’s also demanding with long hours and many pressures. To build a business with a great reputation and a loyal clientele and then see it swept away by factors outside your control must be devastating. And that’s before you have to explain to staff you work with every day that they are out of a job.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ahead of any government decision, we can all help. Something through the books is better than nothing in January so if you have a bar or restaurant you love, try to pay them a visit this month for a drink or something small to eat.

We are all feeling financial pressures right now but the survival of the places we love to eat and drink rests with us at the moment. Use them or lose them.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.