'It's much harder to keep people happy'

Hidden costs: Karen Errington of top gastropub the Rat at Anick outlines how rising prices are impacting her business
Hidden costs: Karen Errington of top gastropub the Rat at Anick outlines how rising prices are impacting her business

Related tags Food Gastropub Finance

When I was asked to write an opinion piece on the issues that affect us in the industry today, it was nigh on impossible to write about anything other than rising costs and the struggle for us small businesses to stay viable.

In the face of the overheads that everyone knows about, food inflation, energy bills and taxation, there are also many hidden costs the customer might not understand.

The post Covid days when everyone was desperate to get back out and enjoy themselves are long gone, luckily people are still out and about but there’s a definite shift in attitude, with the cost-of-living crisis biting, it seems much harder to keep people happy.

In a changing landscape where hospitality workers can no longer be expected to work the long hours they did in the past and especially post Covid demanding a better work/life balance, add to this the increase in the minimum wage (yes I agree workers should be paid more ) and the simple fact is, the business model for lots of hospitality businesses no longer adds up.

Our business survives with us two picking up the slack and continuing to work any hours required to maintain a profit, and with reviewing pricing very carefully indeed.

Tight margins

With margins much tighter than they’ve ever been before the customer should understand how little room for manoeuvre there is in the price they pay for their meal out.

Yes prices have increased, but producing food in a hospitality setting is more expensive than ever.

Consider the glass of wine you accidentally knock over at the table and expect to be replaced (it would seem churlish not to), which is then mopped up with copious amounts of blue roll (three times the price it was pre-Covid.)

Or the extra scoop of ice cream (made in house) you request with your dessert then are surprised when it appears on the bill?

Or the regular Sunday lunch request for extra gravy – yes that gravy is a laborious and expensive process (think of the gas for example),  which takes us two days to make.

Extra cost

Or what about the next time you arrive late for your late table booking, keeping kitchen staff and front of house staff back at least an extra hour at a cost to the business.

Or worse still you ‘no show' on a service that otherwise would be fully booked.

We can do our best to keep prices down and manage outgoings but these are just a few examples of the many hidden costs, which it is increasingly difficult to absorb.

The past few years have been incredibly tough for hospitality businesses across the board, its difficult to remain positive but we can fix things with the support of the government and our valued customers. We need an urgent reduction in VAT and intrinsically the customer needs to be educated to understand and be prepared to pay more for the food that’s served up to them in a restaurant setting.

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