The manager of a popular North East fish and chip takeaway and restaurant says the future of Britain’s iconic culinary staple could be at risk unless the Government steps in to help the hospitality industry ride out the cost of living crisis.
Waseem Mir, the manager of the award-winning Harbour View in Seaton Sluice, Northumberland, says rising costs are threatening the existence of many of the UK’s fish and chip shops. He is so worried about what the future holds with inflation now at a 30 year high, that he has written to Conservative MP, Ian Levy, who represents Blyth Valley, asking him to raise the issue in Parliament.
Mr Mir said he has seen a massive 115% increase in the price of fish. He added that this, coupled with rising cooking oil and batter flour costs as well as the massive 54% hike in energy bills that came into effect from April 1, could price Britain’s ultimate comfort food out of the market.
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Mr Mir said: “Fish and Chips have been popular since the start of the 20 th Century and the tradition of a wholesome family meal has survived two world wars and many recessions, but rising costs are threatening the future of Britain’s fish and chip shops. Rather than increase our prices dramatically we have slightly reduced the sizes of our portions, which are still larger than many other restaurants and takeaways.
“My fear is that some less established family businesses will close resulting in job losses and we’ll all lose the tradition of having good quality food from the local fish shop. We’ve had a difficult two years with Covid and now this price rise isn’t helping business.
“I personally don’t feel that the Government is helping us in any way. I’m asking Mr Levy to raise this issue as a matter of urgency, and I’ve invited him to our restaurant to sample our food and discuss the problem.”
Mr Mir’s fears are backed up by UKHospitality, the sector trade group, which has said consumers can expect to see pub and restaurant price increases in double digit figures over the coming weeks with UK inflation now riding at its highest recorded level for 30 years.
Figures from UKHospitality show the industry is facing a 95% hike in energy bills, 19% in labour costs and a 17% and 14% increase in food and drink prices respectively. These pressures are likely to have worsened since April 1, however, not least because the date also marked a change in the rate of VAT.
That has now reverted to its pre-pandemic level of 20% after being discounted since July 2020 to 12.5% by the Government for certain supplies in the hospitality and tourism sectors, to help them recover from the effects of the Covid lockdowns.
Mr Mir said that at the very least the Government should have kept VAT at the reduced rate.
His view is echoed by UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls, who said: “Given the unfolding cost of living crisis for consumers and the soaring operating costs for businesses, the return to 20% VAT for the sector will prove nothing less than catastrophic.
“The now inevitable price rises for consumers will dampen demand and many hospitality businesses – one in three having less than a month of cash reserves and most are carrying heavy debt burdens – will fail as a result. This can only cause the UK’s wider economic recovery to falter.
“If the sector is to have any hope of playing its full role in fuelling the UK’s recovery then we need support. We will continue to work closely with government to achieve the best possible trading conditions for the industry, keep pushing for reform of fundamentally unfair and crippling business rates, play our role in solving our workforce crisis and persist in making a case for the clear benefits a permanently low rate of VAT will have.
“This is a move which has support not just from UK consumers, but a significant number of MPs as well.”