“Oh When The Saints”

All in all, not a great Budget for the licensed trade then, with no lowering of excise tax and an increase in VAT for a sector of the hospitality industry that’s increasingly coming to rely on food to supplement livelihoods.

The VAT increase seems a doubly-insensitive increase for those pubs and other hospitality providers bordering Northern Ireland as it accentuates the 25% divide in costs for a meal out.

Despite this drawback, investment in upgraded food offerings has only been mega by the country’s vintners. But this began long before the present boom in the economy and has brought pub food to the point where it’s no coincidence that over eight in 10 tourists now go to the Irish pub for their meal requirements.

Thus, the pub food service market alone was responsible for consumers spending €982 million last year and Bord Bia has forecast that this spend will rise by 2.5% between now and 2020.

It all prompted one pub operator to observe to Bord Bia, “Pubs are becoming quasi-restaurants and some restaurants are becoming like bars. There’s a blurring of these two segments”. True that.

For the pub today is less and less likely to be regarded as a “drink only” occasion (indeed what ‘wet’ houses remain should be given National Heritage status).

This pub food phenomenon has got to the point that trying to imagine a pub not doing food is like trying to imagine the Highland Games without the kilts.

But pub food is responsible for much more than just food sales. It significantly affects sales of beer, wine and spirits too as observed by Diageo’s Mark Sandys who reminds us that one-third of all alcohol consumption takes place during occasions when a meal is present.

So should the Government ever come to realise that the law of diminishing returns is now taking place, if only for the Exchequer’s sake, it could do a lot worse than reconsider the present extortionate VAT and excise rates on our drinks retailing industry.

And would the country’s pubs, restaurants and off-licences be able to do something useful with that reduction?

Does New Orleans do “Oh When the Saints”?….

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