Hot chef McGrath calls for cool heads
ONLY those restaurants that can adapt to the new economic reality will survive.
Celebrity chef Dylan McGrath knows a thing or two about the hardships facing the flagging restaurant sector. He was awarded a prestigious Michelin star for his 'Mint' eaterie in Dublin's Ranelagh. But the upmarket restaurant still failed to survive the recession that is threatening to devastate the industry.
He was forced to go downmarket as he opened the "more accessible" price-wise Rustic Stone on South Great Georges Street.
But he warned that, without government measures to assist struggling restaurateurs, more and more businesses will fall foul of the downturn.
"It is hugely difficult, hugely difficult," he told the Irish Independent.
"I'm lucky in that I am inventive and creative and I was able to change and adapt but it does not mean that our problems are over.
"Where can you go really? Keep slashing prices and standards? What about the eight million tourists we get every year, we are supposed to be competing with Europe for them."
The chef was speaking as the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) called for lower Vat and excise rates and an end to Sunday premium payments for restaurant staff.
McGrath echoed the RAI appeal as he proposed that the Irish Government follow the example set by France's Nicolas Sarkozy who cut VAT in restaurants dramatically from 19.6pc to 5.5pc last year in a bid to get the trade to cut prices and create jobs.
"The minimum wage in Spain is €3 something, here's it's €8.40," he said.
The RAI has told the Government that at least one restaurant a day is closing and 80pc are running at a loss.
In its pre-Budget submission, the RAI said the closures and losses are putting 21,000 jobs at risk and this could result in a €700m loss right across the economy.
RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said urgent action must be taken by the Government if the €2bn-a-year industry is to survive.
He said Sunday premium payments are forcing many restaurants to close on a Sunday and called for the abolition of this cost.
Mr Cummins also asked for the extension of the 13.5pc VAT rate to apply to all 'meals' -- including alcohol.