Published 25 September 2022
Heading into winter is usually a time of bubbling anticipation for us. Christmas party bookings flood the inbox and the hectic times ahead both excite and intimidate. As we know, a third of hospitality’s annual turnover is made over the festive season.
With the past couple of years’ celebrations shelved, we might be forgiven for looking forward to what could be a booming 2022 winter. It would give us all that extra boost we need, both on a personal and a business level.
I always try and see things on the bright side, but I fear this latest government announcement, what has been described as a ‘mini-budget’, seems to be another nail in the coffin for independent small and medium-sized businesses. To me, it appears the government’s aim is to do nothing other than make the rich richer. I understand that inviting high-level investment and trade might stimulate the economy, but is this a sacrificial move from Liz Truss and co.?
We’ve all become accustomed to the government announcements over the past couple of years. After each one, Twitter goes into overdrive and inboxes ping with the breaking news. This time, once again, we saw measures that do little, if anything to combat the immediate concerns hospitality faces.
Prior to the latest round of communication, there were whispers of a VAT cut and business rates relief across the industry – both have not been realised. The decision to keep corporation tax at the same level is a pointless exercise. If people aren’t making a profit this makes little difference, as any profits are likely being swallowed by increase in energy prices, rising food costs, and so on. And so there isn’t much to fight what is clearly a crisis.
This obsession with growth on a huge scale has meant overlooking what makes the country tick on the ground.
Concerns are not limited to the front-facing bars and restaurants: suppliers are also facing a difficult period. I know of one, an apple farm, which is unsure about continuing after 40 years. The energy cap has helped for now – this is something that we can be thankful for – but I still can’t help thinking this is just a long, slow and painful end to what used to be a fruitful existence.
More help is urgently needed to support the businesses who have been hardest hit over the past few years and will continue to be – for many consumers, eating out is the first thing to go when savings are required. If we’re having to raise menu prices, it all seems even more challenging.
I’ve long been chewing anyone’s ear off about a VAT reduction for hospitality. It’s not just a case of keeping up to date with rising energy and ingredient costs, it’s about being able to offer our staff, the lifeblood of the business, a dose of much-needed reassurance and confidence as we look to navigate the cost-of-living crisis.
Guests aren’t visiting us for fuel, they’re coming to us for an experience, and we’re grateful every day for that. For us to be able to deliver something special, the government must do more.