The loss of the European Union may turn out to be hospitality's gain as there are some profitable advantages to be had, insists John Trueman
The negative headlines about Brexit are picking up pace: driving licences may not be valid, European health insurance may bounce, border controls are to get tighter, and chaos at the ports is predicted. It's easy to feel that nothing good can come of the UK's divorce from the EU, but there are, however, some potential positives for the UK hospitality sector that may have been overlooked.
Homegrown suppliers will flourish
Assuming a low pound and increased import costs, the home production of ingredients will burgeon. From the wine industry to the boom in UK cheese producers, there is already a renaissance in UK production, and the inevitable increase in the price of EU products after Brexit is only going to stimulate more growth as buyers look to UK suppliers.
From within the EU, UK wine producers have found it hard to challenge the age-old dominance of France, Italy, Spain and Germany. With sufficient growth ignited by significantly increased domestic demand after Brexit, fledgling industries such as wine production may challenge the European giants.
Europe is not the only frontier
While inside the EU, standardised legislation, policy and the free movement of labour may have tempted domestic hospitality groups to focus on European expansion. Brexit may force a reassessment of this strategy, and that may be for the best.
Operators may find that, having been forced to look at non-EU targets for expansion, they find locations that turn out to be more profitable and more sustainable. D&D London has just opened its first restaurant in New York, and many UK restaurants have traded from Dubai, Hong Kong and the Middle East for many years. There is a whole world out there beyond Europe.
Prices could fall in the long term
As long as the UK is able to forge trade deals with new trading partners, prices should fall, since no other country or alliance would insist upon a common agricultural policy or the rigid quotas that have characterised membership of the EU. Falling prices, new ingredient sources and new products can only be good for a UK restaurant industry trying to recover from a surfeit of pasta and pizza.
Some industries will net the benefits
Restaurants depend on the fishing industry and vice versa. Currently, fish caught in excess of EU quotas do not enter the food chain. We can safely assume that Brexit will bring with it the advent of freer fishing, or at least fishing according to the (therefore more appropriate) quotas set by the government in the country for which the fish is destined.
French and British fishermen clashed in the English Channel in an escalating battle over scallops; the French are not happy that UK boats are entitled to fish in the area, resulting in the depletion of shellfish stocks.
Staff scarcity equals increased efficiency
Recruiting and retaining staff post-Brexit is undoubtedly going to be a challenge. Restaurants have used a pool of European workers for both front and back of house jobs for years. With a lower pound and the UK no longer bound to offer free movement of people, there is likely to be a scarcity of staff. Enter technology.
John Trueman is chief executive of guest management expert Quadranet
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