With Brexit looming and the political drama continuing, Kate Nicholls explains how to make the best out of a bad situation
With a depressing sense of inevitability, the new year has started in much the same way as the old one finished. Like waking up the morning after some epic debacle, for many people there seems to be a sense that, politically, everything's ruined and falling to pieces.
The political instability caused by Brexit has rumbled on and, no doubt, businesses will feel helpless, like they're trapped in a midlife crisis of sorts. As the worm turns, and with the government seemingly perfecting the gentle art of making enemies, businesses have probably got that feeling that things are approaching absolute zero. Well, the forthcoming 24 or so months will present challenges, but there are opportunities for us to collectively make the grade, continue to innovate and facilitate our journey on the paths of glory.
A couple of areas in which venues are going to have to be ahead of the game are nutrition and labelling. Both will be under the spotlight with the government looking to be aggressive in its drive to tackle obesity. Recently, the government has published consultations on menu labelling and price promotions. They are looking to act decisively and want to be seen to be acting decisively, so hospitality needs to be leading the way proactively to mitigate the potential for kneejerk legislation to come from out of nowhere.
Luckily, we care a lot and businesses are already hard at work promoting healthy attitudes to food and drink. We have come a long way from the days where British cuisine was routinely sneered at and pubs served only pork scratchings, so we are already hard at work facilitating the government's goal for a healthier Britain.
The sector provides a wider range of options and greater transparency than ever before. Venues have been diligently reformulating menus, providing greater transparency and healthier options. A small victory for both the sector and policy- makers and something we can build upon.
Increasingly important over the previous 12 months has been the focus on allergen labelling and food hygiene. A couple of high-profile incidents have highlighted examples of malpractice and, although the bulk of the sector works incredibly hard to maintain high levels of food safety, there is more that we can do. Although standards of food safety in the UK are generally very high, we still need to be seen to be striving towards total perfection.
To assist businesses, UKHospitality has produced easy-to-follow resources focusing on good hygiene practice, allergen advice and steps to mitigate the impacts of acrylamide. We have been working proactively with our members to co-ordinate efforts and with policy-makers to promote evidence of that work, and we are keen to work even more closely in 2019.
Undoubtedly, 2019 will provide its fair share of challenges, and it is unlikely to be a land of sunshine. But there is more than an opportunity for the sector to succeed. The world is yours, so get out, continue to innovate and make yourself, your business and the hospitality sector king for a day.
*K*ate Nicholls is chief executive of UKHospitalityGet The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).
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