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Undercooked policy is sickener for hospitality

02 December 2011 by

What do a tax bill, a provincial town landlord and a rare hamburger have in common?

They may sound like they have the makings of a moderately amusing joke but instead the answer is that the three of them represent the challenges hospitality businesses across the country are facing in microcosm this week.

Why the tax bill? Because this was the week which saw hospitality leaders from three different trade associations club together and write to Government ministers begging for a freeze in the planned 5.6% rise in business rates in April next year. The rise in business rates will be based on September's RPI measure of inflation - particularly high even in the terms of next month. It has already fallen back by 0.2% in October which makes the move seem even less fair.

How does the provincial town landlord fit in? Because we were warned this week that independent operators looking to set up a new site need to be mindful that in small towns where property is owned disparately by a number of landlords, they may be more inclined to be driven by financial considerations and push rates up to levels only bigger chains can afford.

After all, that's what happened to the revered Westerly restaurant after the landlord hiked rents by 20%.

And the burger? That sums up the trouble burger chain Byron has had with an unnamed local authority which intervened with health and safety concerns over its decision to serve rare hamburgers. Gondola-backed Byron has since decided to stop serving the rare burgers - not because it doubts its own health and safety, it did it for consistency - but that's not the point. Against a backdrop of falling confidence and rising costs and taxes, government big and small needs to be more mindful of the effects of its actions on business.

By Neil Gerrard

E-mail your comments to Neil Gerrard here.

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