Last week in Regents Park took place the annual Taste of London Restaurant Festival. Despite the typical English “summer” weather (the venue reminded me somewhat of a ‘Glastonbury for Foodies’), I popped along on Saturday morning to see what it had to offer. And the answer is this: some of London’s best restaurants, chefs, dishes and suppliers, all in one place, with an abundance of choices of things to eat and drink. With only a couple of hours to spend there I had to choose carefully- so, what did I go for?:
• Smoked Bacon and Egg from Roux at Parliament Square
• Currywurst from the German Gymnasium
• Lamb Shoulder and aubergine from Pied à Terre
• Lamb Fettuccine and Truffle; Cod with Liquorice; Amalfi Lemon Cream, from Sartoria
• Keralan Chicken from Trishna
All washed down with a pint of Doom Bar amber ale and couple of Menabrea, an Italian blonde beer.
Not a bad selection there! Looking forward to next year already.
Not really one to openly discuss politics (mainly because, and happy to admit this, that I don’t understand most of it!), however the upcoming EU referendum is bound to have an effect on the Hospitality industry so I’ve had a look at some of the main issues.
Anyone who works in or visits restaurants and hotels in the UK, can testify for the diverse workforce from across Europe and the world. This would not cause dramatic repercussions as such for businesses but some changes to contracts and HR procedures might be considered to adapt to new or tweaked laws. However were UK to leave the EU, they could still work with EU employment law, as the Swiss do. A Brexit would have more of an impact on individuals from overseas working in the hospitality industry; mainly, that obtaining work permits from skilled workers in the EU would be considerably more complex, hence discouraging people to come over. One argument in the Brexit camp is the old adage of “more jobs for British people”, but considering the situation we are already in with significant skill shortages in kitchens, housekeeping and restaurants, this argument does not stand too strong. One would however hope that the lure of London and other major cities will continue to bring people in to the UK.
Contracts with suppliers may need reviewing in the case of Brexit. One of the benefits we have in the EU is restriction-free trade with suppliers, allowing us to bring in olives from Greece, croissants from France, Proscuitto from Italy (etc etc), allowing UK hospitality businesses to provide authentic experiences to guests. Losing this may mean renegotiating all these contracts, which being out of the EU might prove difficult. Likewise vice-versa, for us to export our products overseas would mean new and different agreements. 12% of hospitality professionals surveyed stated that rising food costs was their biggest fear about a possible Brexit.
One sector that would undoubedtly benefit from a Brexit is the smaller, regional hotels and B&Bs. A Brexit is expected to see a 20% drop in the value of the pound, and so for those who often opt for low-cost holidays to Europe might lean towards a staycation instead, hence keeping their money within the UK economy, which can only be a good thing. Tourism into the UK could be affected, as restrictions on VISAs and travel make free-flowing of tourists more difficult. In fact a Caterer survey found that for 21% of people in hospitality, the main concern is a fall in visitor numbers. One number quoted is that 1/3 of potential tourists from Spain, Italy and Germany, and 1/4 from France, would be less likely to visit the UK if we Brexit, amid fears that quite simply a holiday in the UK would become more expensive and less value for money.
Overall– a vote to Remain means that hospitality businesses would save money and time by not needing to change contracts and procedures, and would continue to benefit from skilled people from overseas coming into our restaurants and hotels to plug skill gaps. A vote to Leave means a rise in domestic tourism and arguably more opportunities for British staff, although whether that actually fills the skill shortage is a different question.
A survey conducted in May by the IoH suggested that most Hospitality managers are voting to remain (52.4%) , with 36.3% voting leave, and 11.3% as yet undecided. Come June 23rd, it will be interesting to see what way the country goes, and what effects this has on our industry.