Jay Rayner says best way for restaurant diners to Eat Out to Help Out is to accept higher prices

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Food journalist and restaurant critic Jay Rayner is calling on the British public to 'reset its relationship with the hospitality sector' and accept higher prices in restaurants as the industry emerges 'beleaguered' from the pandemic.

"For all the people who rant about restaurants being too expensive," he wrote in The Guardian, "the pandemic made it clear that hospitality is not some get-rich-quick scheme."

In fact, he argued, "most restaurants, weighed down by rents and rates, by ingredients’ costs inflated by the folly of Brexit, by the rutted dysfunction of the British economy, cling to financial viability by their fingertips. Too often it is the underpaid and overworked staff who have borne the brunt."

This, as we all know too well, has led to an even more significant staff shortage than we knew before, squeezing operators' already thin margins.

"You can, if you like, rant about economic realities, but you can’t argue with them," he added, but "if there’s a chef shortage, candidates will be able to demand higher wages. All that adds to the bottom line."

Not only this, he said, but better pay in hospitality is "also about dignity."

"Too many people in the hospitality industry have been taken for granted for too long. If we want to have a broad range of restaurants in which to eat out, we’ll have to cough up. It’s as simple as that."

12-point plan

The food critic's piece was published on the same day as UK Hospitality's twelve-point hospitality employment plan, which, by pointing government and the industry in the right direction, it hopes will "attract and retain hospitality employees back into the sector, to help rebuild the industry."

Split into three sections, the intent is to tackle the industry's issues in the short, medium and long term by addressing matters relating to the pandemic, Brexit and the skills shortage which has been ongoing for several years.

In the short term: 

1 - Government to commit as early as possible to remove all restrictions and restore confidence in the sector.

2 - Government – central and local - and industry to highlight the looming deadline for Settled Status applications (30th June) and reassure workers overseas that they can return.

3 - Industry to work closely with DWP to promote the jobs and careers in the sector, with Government ministers talking up the sector at every opportunity.

4 - Industry to engage with colleges and universities to encourage them into the sector when term finishes.

5 - Industry will continue to work in collaboration with DWP to make sure Kickstart works to the fullest for young people and the sector.

6 - HMT to immediately freeze the liquidation of employers' Apprenticeship Levy funding – to allow industry to invest in high-quality training.

7 - UKH to facilitate additional promotion of CareerScope website.

8 -Hospitality and tourism sector to launch recruitment and retention campaign.

In the medium term: 

9 - Expedite the introduction of a Catering T-level and commit to a Hospitality T-level.

10 - Government to amend the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and ensure that chefs and other vital roles are returned to the list – alongside a Youth Mobility Scheme.

11 - Make permanent the reduced rate of VAT and double the Employer National Insurance Contribution threshold to support businesses to grow and pay higher wages.

In the long term - from 2022 onwards: 

12- Review the impact of the new immigration system and its effect on the competitiveness and recovery of the hospitality sector and the wider economy.

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 18th June 2021

Jay Rayner says best way for restaurant diners to Eat Out to Help Out is to accept higher prices