Sector 'suffocating' despite economy easing

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Economic hardship: Operating costs still suffocating the sector despite ease to inflation (Credit:Getty/fcafotodigital)
Economic hardship: Operating costs still suffocating the sector despite ease to inflation (Credit:Getty/fcafotodigital)

Related tags Inflation Finance Food

Operating costs continue to “suffocate” hospitality firms despite a drop in food prices having helped drive the headline rate of inflation down to its lowest level in two and a half years.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), released Wednesday 17 April, inflation rose by 3.2% in the year the March 2024, down from 3.4% in February.

On a monthly basis, the rate saw a 0.6% upswing in March 2024 compared with a rise of 0.8% in March 2023.

The largest downward contributions from food costs, with prices having risen by less than a year ago, while the largest upward contribution came from motor fuels, with prices rising this year but falling a year ago.

Fiscal action 

Notable changes in the cost of meat, bread and cereals made the largest impact on food prices, with meat prices alone having fallen 0.5% between February and March this year compared with a rise of 1.4% a year ago.

Overall, the annual rate eased in eight of the 11 food and non-alcoholic beverages classes, the exceptions being vegetables, hot beverages, and soft drinks, ONS said.

However, Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill said while it was “very hard” not to commend the slow in inflation, the figures showed a deceleration in price hikes rather than a “genuine alleviation" of the burdens faced by firms..

He continued: “Despite this statistical dip, the reality 'at the coal face' remains unchanged - operating costs continue to suffocate our industry.

“It's crucial for the Government to recognise the path to recovery demands more than mere patience; it necessitates decisive fiscal action.”

Economic hardship 

In addition, the CEO urged the Government to address these “pressing issues” with “targeted intervention” in the form a VAT cut ahead of the impending election announcement.

Kill added: “Such a measure would inject much-needed relief into our struggling sector, enabling businesses to not only survive but thrive amidst these challenging times.

“Ignoring this imperative could risk prolonging the economic hardship faced by countless establishments within the sector. We implore policymakers to act swiftly and decisively in support of our industry's recovery."

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls also said it was “worth noting” hospitality costs were still in double digits in a post shared to X.

The post said: “Inflation fell again last month to 3.2% – the lowest level since September 2021 – easing pressure on households and businesses - although worth noting hospitality costs still double digit (This does not mean that prices are falling, just that they are rising more slowly.)”

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