In recent weeks we have witnessed what can truly be described as a watershed moment for the hospitality sector with the launch of UKHospitality (UKH), writes Mike Berry.
This new, powerful trade association, created through a merger of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and the British Hospitality Association, launches at what is an absolutely critical time for the sector.
Full disclosure: FSC has been working with the ALMR over the past year, but, allegiances aside, the union is undoubtedly a good thing. There has long been a widely held sense that in comparison to other sectors, hospitality doesn’t get the recognition or airtime it deserves in the highest echelons of government. There is, after all, no Minister for Hospitality.
Promote and protect
To many that’s non-sensical for an industry so vital to the UK economy; the third largest private sector, employing nearly three million people and generating £38bn for the Exchequer. In these politically and economically uncertain times, the dynamic businesses operating in the industry need a unified and loud voice to promote and protect their interests.
The current pressures on operators of all sizes are well documented with the sector’s growth and track record of job creation under serious pressure through a toxic cocktail of significant cost increases across the areas of people, property and product. At the same time there is likely to be a softening of demand in the face of uncertain economic times and the prospect of an uptick in interest rates.
Currently, when ministers summon representatives of the business community to discuss a seismic issue you tend to see the same four big groups walking up Downing Street: The Confederation of British Industry; the Federation of Small Business; the British Retail Consortium; and manufacturers’ association the EEF. The shared ambition for UKH is be to be the fifth group walking through the door at No.10.
With over 700-member companies, operating 65,000 venues in a sector that employs nearly three million people across the country, and which generates £130bn – 5% of GDP – the sector’s scale cannot be ignored.
A single, clear voice is better than many and there are a number of unifying issues on which UKH can speak for the whole sector; reform of the archaic business rates system, a workable post-Brexit immigration solution and a more fair and favourable tax regime. Added to this, there needs to be more recognition that businesses need time to plan; few would argue that the national living wage is a good thing but please don’t foist it on commercial organisations overnight. Such actions may well be politically expedient, but without serving proper notice, risk investment and business stability in the short term.
These big issues are where UKH’s size and voice will enable it to stage greater interventions that will deliver meaningful policy change and business support.
Then there is tackling passé perceptions of hospitality and developing the workforce of the future. Hospitality jobs must pass the critical ‘mum and dad’ test – everyone in the sector has a part to play in convincing parents that a job in our sector has strong prospects and can lead to a meaningful and successful career across a diversity of roles.
It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for the sector as the new association officially ‘launches’ in the coming weeks and begins its work to reshape the future of hospitality.
Mike Berry is head of content at Fleet Street Communications, and the former Managing Editor of the Morning Advertiser