VFI Chief speaks on next steps

Research undertaken by the VFI has found that some 76% of people associate the Irish pub with ‘craic’, 56% associate it with ‘tradition’ and 52% ‘pub snacks’.

Some 48% associate the Irish pub with ‘good music’, 40% with ‘a quiet pint’ but 38% associate it with ‘old men drinking Guinness’.

26% associate the Irish pub with sports but only 19% associate it with ‘good food’, the same percentage as those who associate it with ‘being rural’.

“People do not spontaneously strongly associate good food with the Irish pub,” pointed out VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben who’d been asked to prepare a report on the possible next steps for the VFI to take in the wake of the failure to amalgamate with the LVA last year.

The Chief Executive put forward two options at this year’s VFI conference: either the Federation continues on as it’s doing or it could maximise what it’s learned from the failed merger.

With pubs being responsible for 28% of all food consumed outside the home the challenge here is to be seen as a key operator, so the key message has to be ‘quality’ as part of the changing nature of the pub offering, he advised.

But over half the women surveyed indicated that they’d not go to the pub on their own.

Indeed only 19% indicated that they’d go in at all during the day.

“We have to change the perception of the Irish pub to reflect an outlet that does good food, because that message has not been got out there,” he stated, “And we’ve an obvious problem in attracting a female audience,” he added.



Rates & licences

The Chief Executive believes that a good system is now in place with the Valuation Office in relation to commercial rates but it’s not being rolled out fast enough.

“Too many pubs are still rated on size and as for water rates, it seems clear that the water infrastructure has to be fed by charging commercial rates,” he said.

It was also vital to maintain the primacy of a Publican’s Seven-Day Licence and to maintain court oversight on licensing matters rather than have the present situation in England and Scotland where different councils with different ideas on alcohol retailing dispense licences.

The cost and system in place for obtaining SEOs remains prohibitive too and needs addressing by government, he added, as does the Good Friday closing situation.



Tourism & training

Staff shortages in the hospitality industry mean that the Federation will have to look at the whole educational system for chefs and hospitality employees and consider putting in place training structures such as apprenticeships once more.

At the same time, he pointed out that people felt that Ireland’s famous bar staff stand out compared to pubs abroad.

In the field of tourism pubs needed to be recognised as key players so need to be centrally involved in this and be an active voice for the tourism industry.

A lot of tourist offices have been closed with the result that tourism information is a bit of a ‘mish-mash’ in some places.

“We could become a tourist office provided it’s properly structured”.

As a possible approach, it would be good to get a strategy in place. The VFI must be prepared to work with outside agencies, but this requires properly-researched information.

“We cannot go to government unless we have a properly-researched position and this costs money,” he stated, “We also have to have the right visibility in the media, including social media.

“We need to build alliances within this trade and across other trades.

“This should not be an issue where we cannot sit in the same room as others with diametrically opposed views,” he concluded.


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