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How Brexit Has and Will Continue to Affect the Restaurant Business

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Since the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union last year there has been talk within the restaurant and hospitality industry about what the impact of this will be for them.

Concerns about foreign food and wine imports have been a cause of concern with 29% of British food (both household and restaurants) coming from the EU.

Another related issue are reports predicting 30% of restaurants will go bust after Brexit.

The number of restaurant companies to go bust has been predicted to be 5,500 within the next three years. One of the highest profile fatalities to take a hit was Jamie Oliver’s restaurant franchise, with six of his Italian restaurants to close.

The business cited “pressures and unknowns” following Brexit as the cause.

The food and drink industry has always been conscious of the impact of Brexit to the sector with FDF members overwhelmingly backing the UK to remain in the EU at 71%.

With the UK government triggering the withdrawal process in March of this year, the immanency of leaving the EU has become more strongly felt.

So how will Brexit continue to impact the restaurant business? Aside from the possible increase of imported food and wine from the EU, a shortage of staff in both cafes and restaurants alike is predicted, as they are often staffed by EU nationals.

In 2015, Britons made up just 4% of the catering and hospitality workforce. This is in stark contrast to the 13% of EU-born staff in the same sector.

Even before Article 50 was invoked, a significant number of EU workers in the UK were leaving for Europe. This drop in EU workers is contributing to the labour shortage in UK.

Michelin-starred Swedish chef Mikael Jonsson says “I am worried about Brexit, what it might do to our industry. I don’t know if fine dining can cope with it, because it relies so heavily on labour from Europe”.

To soften the impact of Brexit on restaurant staffing, the UK government has been urged by Migration Watch UK to adopt ‘Barista Visas for EU workers. These are effectively short-term work permits allowing foreign nationals to work in the “low-skilled” sector.

Another attempt around the staffing deficit being made is to try and attract British employees. Companies such as Pret a Manger is making a conscious effort to attack UK workers through ads in job centres and via social media.

Until the full nature of Brexit is clear it appears the best course of action for restaurateurs would be to invest in the staff they currently employ (EU or not), but also make efforts to attract UK workers.

Preparing for any eventuality along with a ‘business as usual’ ethos will help to lessen the impact of Brexit, soft or hard.

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