Sue Says

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I was really sorry to hear about the death of Donald Clark of The George Hotel in Inveraray. He was a long-standing friend and one of the great, colourful characters of the Scottish licensed trade. I have so many fond memories of him and I am so glad we were able to catch up at last year’s awards.

The George won Sunday Mail Pub of the Year, and Hotel Bar of the Year with Donald picking up a Hall of Fame accolade. He was a super-raconteur, and certainly knew how to live life to the full. His sons have asked for those attending his funeral to wear colour in celebration of his life. Next month we will have a full obituary – of the late, great Donald Clark. Our thoughts are with his family and of course partner Jane.

The UK Government has given English pubs a rates discount – recognising the unfair burden the pub and wider hospitality sector faces. UK wide it is estimated that hospitality businesses are paying £2.4 billion more than they should. The UK government is taking note but what is the Scottish Government doing about
it? UKHospitality have welcomed the move South of the Border with Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality CEO, saying, “This is fantastic news for pubs and other high-street businesses who are taking too much of the pain from business taxes. The economy has evolved and the tax system needs to catch up.” She continued, “At the Budget in March we need to see drastic action to cut the cost of running a business regardless of size. Costs are on the rise, particularly with the planned 6.2% increase in the National Living Wage in April. We will be proposing a range of measures, including further cuts in business rates for all hospitality businesses and a cut in employment taxes to support firms in delivering higher take-home pay.” In Scotland we have the Small business bonus scheme (everything rated under £15k should be paying nothing, between £15k -£18k, you get a 25% discount). But this is for every business not just hospitality. And in England and Wales RV is calculated by what is called ‘fair maintainable trade’ and it’s based on: the type of pub or licensed premises; the area it’s in; the services it offers, for example food, gaming or sports screenings We really do need some comparable figures to fight the case more strongly.

Meanwhile, I watched the Prime Minister Boris Johnston on his first televised interview. He skirted around various issues as usual, but on the subject of the minimum wage he did drop in that it would keep on rising. You have to ask, in the current climate can hospitality businesses sustain these constant increases? What will happen is that the the hospitality sector will cut back on staff, and those in employment will have to work harder to cover and even service levels may, as a result, go down. This is not going to do anything to aid mental health in the hospitality workplace or for that matter any workplace. I can’t help feel it will fuel a rise in zero hour contracts. Something has to give… businesses must be sustainable to be operate.

One business that is certainly sustainable is Paul Stevenson’s. I popped into his newest venture Sugo Pasta recently on what was apparently the gloomiest day of the year. The place was jumping. Great food, super service and a really buzz about the venue. He has the Midas touch. Paul takes what on the face of it is a simple
idea and does it to perfection. The best of authentic produce, cooked expertly and served ultra efficiently. Molto Bene!

One person who will be getting a DRAM gong next year is Stephen Glancey… The ‘No-one saw it coming’ gong. The CEO of C&C announced he was retiring from the company last month. It’s the talk of the steamy!

Last but not least, congratulations to David and Ruth Wither, who have sold Flow Hospitality Training, the business they founded in 2009, to US investor Providence Equity Partners who have merged it with Spanish business MAPAL. David and Ruth will retain a stake in the group and a seat on the board, but are now stepping back from day to day leadership of Flow. Flow changed the face of hospitality training, not just in Scotland, but throughout the UK.

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