Two major industry bodies set to merge to create UKHospitality

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Nicholls: The merger of the ALMR and BHA will deliver immeasurable benefits to the members of both organisations
Nicholls: The merger of the ALMR and BHA will deliver immeasurable benefits to the members of both organisations

Related tags Hospitality sector Industry

Plans to merge the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Hospitality Association (BHA) have been confirmed after much speculation within the sector.

Kate Nicholls, current ALMR CEO and proposed CEO-elect of the new body, which will be called UKHospitality, said the merger had initially been discussed after the two organisations successfully campaigned on a number of issues together such as pay rates. Nick Varney, current head of the BHA, has been proposed as chair of UKHospitality.

Proposed board appointments for UKHospitality 

Wendy Bartlett, Bartlett Mitchell

Steve Cassidy, Hilton

Grant Hearn, Amaris Hospitality

Bob Ivell, M&B

Simon Jones, Premier Inn,

Dermot King, Bourne Leisure

Peter Marks, The Deltic Group

Ranjit Mathrani, Masala World

Calum Ross, Loch Melfort

Robin Rowland, Yo Sushi

Alex Salussolia, Glendola Leisure

Damian Walsh, CGA

Paul Wigham, All Our Bars 

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​, Nicholls said: “The ALMR and BHA had achieved a lot more by working collectively together, so we looked at how we could deliver more of that, do it better and formalise it."

Unprecedented pressure

The aim of the new super trade body is to create a “powerful unified voice” for the country’s £130bn hospitality sector as it faces “unprecedented political and regulatory pressures”, Nicholls added. “Now more than ever [the sector] requires the strongest and most effective voice within Government.”

Key priorities for the combined organisation will include, unsurprisingly, Brexit, employment costs, property taxes, the career and skills debate and how that links in with the Government’s productivity challenge. The online economy and digital disruption are other issues that will be high on the new trade body’s agenda.

To emphasise the economic importance of the hospitality industry to the UK, ALMR and BHA jointly published fresh figures revealing that the sector is forecast to grow by 4.3% creating 19,000 more jobs by 2020.

The body will also reiterate calls for Government to appoint a Hospitality Minister.

Growth opportunity 

Nicholls said UKHospitality will work to “deliver much-needed policies to help the sector secure this growth opportunity, and drive employment and innovation, and support entrepreneurs”.

Varney added: “Hospitality is a prosperous and vibrant sector with great potential for further growth if the right policies are in place and a single, strong trade association will be ideally positioned to provide that support. We are calling for a new ministerial champion and sector deal enabling the hospitality sector to invest in world-class careers and customer experiences.”

Asked how the merger will affect campaign priorities, Nicholls said: “We are both grass roots organisations and we stay very close to our members and their issues of concern. We’re also putting a series of policy groups in place for each individual sub sector and for Scotland and Wales, and SMEs across the sector, so we’ve got a touch point for every single member.”

She said these groups will cover the issues specific to these sectors, for example, the agent-of-change principle for pubs. “The beauty of having one big trade association that covers all those issues is that we have the resources to deliver that for all of our members. We believe that this will deliver immeasurable benefits to the members of both organisations, from the single site operators that we both have, right the way through to the national chains. They will benefit from having this merger taking place and the increased resources and focus we’ll be able to bring.”

Proposed members of the Advisory Council to UKHospitality

  • The proposed chair for the council is Steve Richards, who is the current chair of the ALMR and CEO of Casual Dining Group.

Separate policy groups will ensure that all interests and concerns of member companies are addressed by the new body.

  • Robin Rowland of Yo Sushi will Chair the restaurant group;
  • Bob Ivell of M&B will Chair the pub group;
  • Peter Marks of Deltic will Chair the late-night group;
  • Paul Wigham, Phil Thorley and Alex Salussolia will continue to provide vital SME input at all levels of the structure of the proposed association

There will be separate policy groups for SMEs, hotels and catering as well as separate Scotland and Wales groups.

Members approval

Members from the ALMR and BHA will have received proposals for the merged body today and will be invited to attend an extraordinary general meeting on 21 February to debate and potentially approve the move.

If given the go ahead, the newly created organisation will represent the voices of more than 700 companies, 65,000 venues and 2m workers, while the entire sector represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of GDP. Hospitality is the third largest private-sector employer in the UK, and is double the size of financial services and bigger than automotive, pharmaceuticals and aerospace combined.

Industry reactions

Paul Pavli, Punch managing director, said: “Having been impressed with the work of both the ALMR and BHA in recent years, we welcome news of a proposed merger between these two influential bodies. 

"A larger entity with a unified and louder voice to represent and engage the industry and greater influence with government on the key issues affecting our sector is a hugely positive step.“

Simon Longbottom, CEO at Stonegate Pub Company, also welcomed the merger and said: “We are really delighted to see confirmation of this important merger. We have long advocated the need for one voice and for clarity when lobbying and laying out the argument to government. This is an exciting step forward and Kate has our support.”

Peter Borg-Neal, Oakman Inns Founder, said he believes the merger makes "a whole load of sense and is very good news for our sector".

"The UK hospitality industry faces a set of challenges that, in terms of complexity and uncertainty, are unique in recent history," he continued.

"In the past our lobbying efforts have been diluted due to the wide range of industry groups that ministers, and other influencers, have had to listen to.

"The new organisation, UKHospitality, will clearly become the most influential and authoritative body within the industry. I am very optimistic we will now have the thought leadership, campaigning strength and intelligent ambassadorship that our industry will need in the years to come.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, congratulated the ALMR and the BHA on their proposed merger.

She said: "As a sector, brewing and pubs contributes £23 billion to the UK economy and we look forward to working closely with the new association on our shared concerns. Congratulations to Kate Nicholls on her new role. It is thoroughly deserved and a big challenge, but she has all the attributes to make it work.

“Thanks must also go to Ufi Ibrahim for all her hard work and particularly for the Big Hospitality Conversation which attracted new employees into our sector. We wish her well.”

Society of Independent Brewers chief executive Mike Benner commented: "The proposed merger of these two bodies to create UKHospitality will create an immensely powerful voice for the hospitality sector.  UK craft beer plays an important role in the hospitality sector and we know retailers that offer it to consumers are often more profitable businesses."

He said SIBA was looking forward to continuing to work with Nicholls and her new team.

Daniel Davies, chief executive of CPL Training Group, also welcomed the plans and said: "UKHospitality will allow our sector to stand together with a strong unified voice. For too long we have been fighting for recognition as to social and economic benefits the hospitality sector brings to the UK.

"Under the inspirational leadership of Kate Nicholls this new body will, unequivocally, provide a powerful voice for the third largest private sector employer in the UK. We look forward to working with UKHospitality, in particular with their strategic objective to deliver an integrated careers and skills strategy for our industry.”

  • Nicholls was recently interviewed on the BBC about careers within the hospitality industry. See the video below.
  • Additional reporting by Georgina Townshend

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