Lord Bilimoria described the last three years as some of “the most challenging” in his career with “one crisis after another” and urged the Government to do “much more” to support the nations pubs and drive growth for both the sector and the economy.
He said: “[The sector as a whole] employs hundreds of thousands of people, contributes huge amounts to the exchequer and on top of that, many of pubs and restaurants are pioneering entrepreneurs who put back into their local communities.
“In my business career I've been through recessions and it’s been pretty challenging. I nearly lost the business three times.
“But these have been three of the most challenging years in my in my career, with one crisis after another.
“It's shown that, as an industry, we work together to try and support each other, and everyone comes together to try and help the industry in a time of crisis.
“But most importantly, the Government needs to help and not take us for granted and could do so much more [for the industry].”
In addition, Lord Bilimoria implored to Government to “never take an industry like hospitality for granted, describing Britain’s pubs and restaurants as “national treasures.”
“There is no other country that has institutions quite like our wonderful pubs that are heart of the communities, whether in villages or towns or cities, and we should never take them for granted, we should be supporting them.
“Straight after the pandemic we had the sad war in Ukraine and then all the supply chain issues and energy issues and inflation, the cost-of-living crisis; it’s been one crisis after another.
“The industry that's been hit probably more than any other industry is the is hospitality”, he continued.
Yet, the Cobra founder added the Government had done some “good things” for the sector, including the help to grow management scheme, which supports firms with the cost of business schools to attend programmes to aid growth and learn from other business leaders.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can to try to protect and save our pubs and restaurants, which are at the heart of the community”
“That’s the sort of support the Government should be doing. When Rishi Sunak was Chancellor, that was one of his initiatives”, he continued.
However, Lord Bilimoria stated the Government needed to focus on reducing tax burdens “across the board” for the industry, adding the UK’s hospitality sector is “one of the most taxed in Europe”, which is “not fair and does not incentivise in the right way”.
In particular, the businessman said the sector’s economic outlook had “not been helped” by the Government “not listening” to repeated calls to reform business rates.
“[The sector] has been crying out for business rates reform, that's desperately needed, it should be a top priority and this Government is just not listening.
“The rates are completely disproportionate and extortionate; you can visibly see the high street is suffering as a result. The Government has done its best in terms of all the help it gave during the pandemic, but now it’s got to do more to save pubs.”
In addition to business rates reformation, Lord Bilimoria urged the Government to look at reforming the apprenticeship levy to “encourage and support skills” as well as help address labour shortages.
Heart of the community
Moreover, Lord Bilimoria explained high taxes were “hampering post-pandemic growth and recovery” and were “absolutely the wrong thing”.
He continued: “Corporation tax was put up from 19% to 25% [and that] was absolutely the wrong move.
“Not only is it bad for the companies themselves but it affects investors and inward investment, it affects domestic investment, it affects the attractiveness of a country to investment.
“The hospitality industry suffered hugely during the pandemic and sadly, many pubs closed and are still closing.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can to try to protect and save our pubs and restaurants, which are at the heart of the community.”