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The Caterer

Ease up on hot food outlets

01 December 2011
Ease up on hot food outlets

The planning system with regard to hot food takeaway stifles job creation, says Andrew Emmerson, business development director at Domino's Pizza

The hospitality sector, particularly food, continues to be one of the key drivers for growth in the UK. Even in the economic downturn, quick service restaurants and casual dining places continue to open at a hefty pace - despite the constant obstacles put in our way.

I often gaze jealously as I look at the likes of Subway and Greggs, still trading on the basis they don't cook food - allowing them to just take over the next empty shop that becomes vacant without even touching the planning department. Meanwhile, Domino's struggles with the demon that is an A5 class outlet - a hot food takeaway.

What annoys me is the limited knowledge those involved in deciding whether or not 30 new jobs can be created have about our sector. They abuse their position of power, causing lost revenue for constituents (and voters), with constant delays and requests for further spurious information - claiming it's all in the name of obesity prevention.

There are many vacant premises out there, creating a negative impact on the street scene, losing valuable revenue for the local area in terms of business rates and the general economic benefit you get from having additional employees in an area. Yet most local authorities would seem to prefer Satan to open a sweet shop over the arrival of a hot food takeaway.

We are faced by a whole bevy of planning challenges - from general nimbyism, to 400m exclusion zones around schools. Based on emotion and few hard facts we are often another cause célèbre for local politicians to prove that they are taking a tough line on public health.

Those in power hold a narrow view that all A5s involve chips, fights and litter. We do not serve chips - in fact our stores don't even contain fryers. Over 75% of our business is delivered to customers - so our carry out areas are normally empty.

We are happy to be bound by agreements such as providing bins or closing our carry out areas during the school lunch hour. Our stores are operated by franchisees that run them as a local business.

We invest fortunes in the best ducting to protect the environment of our neighbours. Our stores have the smell of baking - not frying - and we berate and punish those franchisees who do not adhere to our high standards; we support thousands of local projects and charities; and we create sustainable jobs - for those who want to come and join us. And yet we are still seen as the pariahs of the planning world. Tell me - what do we have to do to turn the anti-A5 tide?

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