Opinion

'Things can only get better'

Operator comment: Brendan Padfield of the Unruly Pig outlines his thoughts on the current landscape facing the sector
Operator comment: Brendan Padfield of the Unruly Pig outlines his thoughts on the current landscape facing the sector

Related tags Legislation Food Gastropub Suffolk

I am old enough to remember when Tony Blair first got elected and particularly the Labour Party’s then electoral anthem “things can only get better “.

As someone who has, in my time, voted mostly for the Conservative party, I remember humming the same anthem in the early days of the first lockdown in 2020 when I, like so many business owners (pre furlough) was bewildered as to whether the business would survive.

Post Covid, the challenges for us all have of course been huge and arguably worse. Just when we thought normality might prevail then along came food inflation, hyper energy inflation and, of course, acute labour shortages.

Now labour shortages are not a thing that are unique to the UK – much of Europe is similarly suffering from disproportionate early retirements, furloughitis (and a shift out of the hospitality sector for a better lifestyle balance).

Salary gazumping

But what is unique to the UK is the additional adverse impact of Brexit and, of course hospitality, has suffered more than most (with the care sector) as so many Europeans went home and have not returned. Thus, the current unsustainable race to the top on wages which seems unending. At times, as result of shortage of labour, we have had to cap cover numbers (and thus income) at a time when we should be growing.

So, what is the answer? Boris’ “big wage’ economy is no answer, that’s for sure. Those who pay the best still face salary gazumping and yet still encounter resource and quality of resource issues. The Government knows this all too well. Whatever ministers say publicly, privately all Government departments have lobbied Priti Patel for additional European visas for their sector (but less said about Priti Patel the better).

The fact is the UK’s economy has always needed and best thrived with immigration – whether it be the post war Irish, the Windrush generation, the Indian sub-continent (providing such valuable resource to our NHS) or European plumbers or hospitality workers. 

The British have rarely held hospitality in high esteem but in any event our UK birth rate is falling – so available resource will get worse and not better. What’s worse is that no solution is promulgated by Her Majesty's Government (HMG). It is political suicide for the Tories to admit Brexit has been a major own goal (with the UK economy expected to be the worst performing of all G20 countries save for Russia who are facing major sanctions).  

Political suicide

For HMG to admit to the Tory red wall that the UK desperately need immigration is political suicide.

I am therefore slowly concluding that that our best hope is actually a Labour government! Some of my die-hard Conservative customers are also murmuring to the same effect. Taxes are already at an all time high but a Labour administration (‘Remain’ sympathisers but not in public) will I believe be more pragmatic and give us at least a better of hope of the hospitality sector joining the special European visa access schemes that exist for the likes of abattoirs /food growers. So the call to action is attack on all fronts and lobby your own MPs for European visas. One of the biggest Brexiteers, Tim Martin (of JD Wetherspoon) has even done so !

And if this was not all bad enough, the pressures on our food costs are about to get much so worse because the current drought, which is Europe wide (and the UK imports 55% plus from Europe e.g. 90% of our salad crops come from Spain) 

Things can only get better…

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