Hospitality firms struggling to stay open amid soaring costs and staff shortages

Hospitality firms struggling to stay open amid soaring costs and staff shortages

Many hospitality businesses are struggling to keep their doors open after being hit by the double-whammy of labour shortages and a growing cost of living crisis.

The Hospitality Ulster AGM also heard business owners has been been forced to close for a number of days of the week due to staff shortages and to give colleagues some well-deserved rest.

Those in attendance at the Belfast meeting also raised the issue of VAT at 20%, which puts them at a huge disadvantage when competing in the tourism market with the Republic , where the VAT sits well below  9%).

Central to the concerns of the membership was the need for the Executive to bring forward a dedicated hospitality strategy to find practical policy solutions and support for the problems that can be dealt with at a local level.

Chief Executive, Colin Neill, said: “The stark reality of the hospitality landscape was laid bare at today’s AGM with members voicing real concern over the future of the sector moving forward.

“Pulling down shutters for part of the week due to lack of staff, cutting menu items due to food costs, or simply ceasing trading due to rising costs is happening across the industry and interventions are urgently required to stave off the worst impacts of these factors out of our control.

“The hope that 2022 would be the year of bounce back for hospitality has been severely dashed as we bear the brunt of a workforce crisis while also contending with spiralling business costs and a VAT rate that is stifling progress.

“People now have less disposable income to spend at their local pub, restaurant, or coffee shop and with a further rise in inflation expected, how are we meant to survive?

“We are working to provide workable solutions to these looming issues, and despite the lack of Executive and Assembly, it is important that our elected representatives be live to the challenges and engage the sector on what actions can be implemented. This starts with a hospitality strategy that can help resource and support the industry get back on its feet, and properly work to regain its position as a £2bn a year sector.

“This is a time when we should be embracing the sector and using it to help kick start the economy. As an industry we are a significant employer; the fourth largest private sector employer in fact and a sector that can generate revenue – we just need support at a time when there are many external factors applying so much pressure on us.”

Hospitality Ulster Chair Tony O’Neill added: “As a restaurant owner, I am fully aware of the crippling issues that are presenting to our industry every day and it has been extremely worrying to hear from colleagues today how some businesses are truly on the brink.

“The ongoing labour shortage is causing havoc to all businesses in the hospitality sector, and as an industry which is people centric, this is a terrible position to be in.”

Stephen Magorrian, Vice Chair of Hospitality Ulster said: “As a business owner, I am experiencing the pressures of the current business landscape. It is no exaggeration to say that intervention is required urgently to support the industry. The concerns voiced at today’s AGM only underscored the fact that hospitality is in a crisis and it will take resourcing and actions to help us resume normal trade.”