Soaring costs forcing UK eateries to cut back hours, chop seafood from menus

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls.

Despite several tumultuous years caused by Covid-19 restrictions,, U.K. restaurants continue to face a battle for survival amid soaring food, energy, and materials costs.

U.K. businesses expect a 101 percent increase in energy bills in Q1 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to a quarterly survey released by UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and Hospitality Ulster.

Energy suppliers have been inflating quotes without justification, with 56 percent reporting higher standing charges, UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said at a BEIS Strategy Committee session in early February.

Higher energy prices are “significantly affecting” restaurant's profit margins, UKHospitality and the other organizations said. More than 1,600 hospitality businesses closed in the last quarter, according to the three organizations, and of those that survived, forty-two percent have reduced opening hours and 34 percent have cut back on the number of days they are open.

Hospitality businesses and representatives have consistently warned that the exclusion of the sector from additional energy support means venues are facing unsustainable hikes in their energy bills. The dramatic increases we are seeing in energy prices shows the desperate need for support and investment in hospitality, if our sector is to survive the current crisis and go on to deliver consistent economic growth, create jobs, and reinvest in our local communities," the organizations said. These survey results reinforce those warnings, demonstrating the extent of this energy devastation on venues with bills set to almost double as a result of support significantly reducing. Arriving on top of the 101 percent increase compared to this time last year, the hit to the sector could not come at a worse time.”

National Federation of Fish Friers President Andrew Crook, owner of restaurant Skippers of Euxton in Lancashire, U.K., said ballooning energy costs topped his list of concerns.

“I have members who are on extortionate rates for energy and that needs addressing,” Crook said. "Businesses don't have the ability to move suppliers as domestic users are allowed to enjoy. We have businesses that have not had the correct level of support applied to their energy rates, too, and many will not even be aware.”

U.K. restaurants, particularly fish-and chip-shops, also also been hit with substantial price increases on ingredients, including for cooking oil and seafood. Their fish supplies were affected by U.K. sanctions on Russian seafood as part of the government's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In mid-March 2022, the U.K. placed a 35 percent tariff hike on Russian whitefish. Around 30 to 40 percent of filets used in fish and chip shops are of Russian origin, Crook said, and a lot” of Russian-caught fish is used in processing and for value-added products in the U.K.

U.K. Fish-and-chip operators have tried to cushion consumers from increased costs by ... 

Photo courtesy of UKHospitality

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