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The Coalition Government one year on – what the contract caterers think

19 May 2011
The Coalition Government one year on – what the contract caterers think

Among the first acts of David Cameron's premiership was a speech on the great value of the tourism industry to the UK economy. So is he helping or hindering? This is what the contract caterers think

Tim West
Tim West
The causes of poor nutrition need to be addressed

Tim WestChairman, Lexington Catering

I understand why the VAT increase has been necessary, but to move from 15% to 20% in the space of a few months is inflationary and at the outer margins of acceptability. It erodes the opportunity to make a margin, as the Government has effectively trumped the operator with increased taxes. There is a case for a lower rate in staff-feeding outlets - VAT in France for employee restaurants has been around 5% for many years. Unfortunately, the BHA, our lobbying body, has been more focused on VAT concessions for hotels and restaurants than the food service sector.

The Government needs to do far more to foster the attitude to, and importance of, food and meal times in culture and society. The opposite seems to be the case, as demonstrated by the pathetic attitude towards and funding of school meals, hospital catering and feeding of the elderly. Yes, obesity is on the agenda, but the causes of poor nutrition and behaviour need to be addressed, not the effect.

Bill Toner (2010)
Bill Toner (2010)
Time to deliver on tourism promises

Bill TonerChief executive, Host

There has been a lot of hot air from the Government with regard to its investment in tourism. That is yet to materialise. At the minute they've got a stranglehold over the economy thanks to the VAT increase and a lack of investment. I don't feel that the threat of a double dip is on the horizon, but the hospitality sector plays a big part in the economy and, unless Government supports it, the economy is going to remain stagnant for some time to come.

Hospitality is a major employer in the UK. The Government knows and understands the economic contribution it makes, but it needs to deliver on some of the promises it has made with regard to the structure and strategy for tourism.

Wendy Bartlett
Wendy Bartlett
Focus on initiatives that encourage new business

Wendy BartlettChief executive, Bartlett Mitchell

While our costs are going up, clients - and Government bodies in particular - are being squeezed. Contract catering has always worked to tight margins but I think we're getting it from three sides now: the customer doesn't have enough money to spend; food inflation is spiralling massively; and costs such as VAT and national insurance have gone up.

Suppliers and clients are making hard decisions. During the recession it was about quick fixes, but now people are thinking longer and harder about what they do as a business.

I'd like to see the Government focus on initiatives that encourage new businesses, that help entrepreneurs, who then create jobs and the whole nation benefits.

Employment red tape needs to be addressed. The process of employing people is quite onerous and might put some businesses off recruitment.

Charles Beer
Charles Beer
Make local government tendering simpler

Charles BeerChief executive, Crown Group

The Government has clearly been focusing on reducing the public sector deficit and a lot of its departments are feeling the pain. As a result, there have been more local and central government tender opportunities for the private sector. But while there are some good opportunities out there, some local councils have unrealistic views on how commercially viable an operation is.

There was a commitment to making local government tendering easier and more transparent, and as yet I haven't really seen a marked difference. But that's not to say it's not coming.

Reducing corporation tax was a much-needed boost but, of course, national insurance contributions went up. I've heard a lot of promises but I haven't seen enough tangible evidence of a real benefit to our particular business sector.

How do you think the Coalition Government is performing for hospitality? Tell us atTable Talk.

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