Wetherspoon to cut prices on Tax Equality Day: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin is calling on pub and restaurant operators to show their support for a Tax Equality Day on Wednesday 20 September. And he has the backing of both the Association of Licensed Multiple Operators (ALMR) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which are calling on their members to join in too. Each of Wetherspoon’s 900-plus pubs in the UK will be cutting the price of all food and drink by 7.5% on the day. The Tax Equality day is aimed at highlighting the benefit of a VAT reduction in the hospitality industry. Prices at Wetherspoon pubs will be reduced for one day only, in order to show the benefits of a VAT cut. At present all food in pubs is subject to 20% VAT, compared with supermarkets which benefit from a zero VAT rate on the vast majority of food products. Martin said: “Pubs suffer a huge disadvantage paying about 16 pence in business rates per pint versus about two pence for supermarkets. In addition there is a huge VAT inequality and unfairness. A reduction in the level of VAT on a long-term basis will create a level playing field and generate growth and jobs in an important and vital industry – especially in beleaguered high streets. We’re aiming to make it the busiest day of the entire year in our pubs and would urge other pub and restaurant operators to participate too.” British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Tax Equality Day is a great opportunity to shine a light on how unfair VAT is for both pubs and the wider hospitality sector. If you buy a meal in a supermarket you pay no VAT, but in the pub you pay 20%. Even a small drop in the VAT rate for eating out, to 15%, would create 78,000 jobs and would be a big boost for the economy. I hope pubs will get behind the campaign.” Association of Licensed Multiple Operators (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “ This is a great opportunity not only to highlight the disproportionate burden of tax borne by pubs and restaurants, but also the difference in tax levels between going out and eating and drinking at home. Pubs and restaurants are paying around a third of their turnover in tax compared to a fifth for big supermarkets and a cut in the rate of VAT would help address this unfairness and allow pubs and restaurants to invest in their businesses, their teams and their communities. Our latest research shows that a cut in VAT would give the average adult £500 more in disposable income, giving hard pressed households a breathing space as well as a boost to consumer spending which could be worth £19bn to the UK economy. Two thirds of customers have said that they would spend more if VAT was lower and just over half said that they would spend more on eating and drinking out. As business rates and rising inflation continue to squeeze the sector, a cut in VAT not only levels the playing fields in terms of fairness, it is also a simple way to help boost a vital engine of economic growth. That’s something we must all support.”
Northern cities lead independent restaurant fightback against chains: Northern cities are leading the fightback against chains as part of a UK-wide boom during the past three years in the number of independent restaurants, new research has revealed. The research, commissioned by hospitality trade show Northern Restaurant & Bar, has shown cities such as Newcastle and Leeds are leading the way with growth rates far outstripping traditional restaurant hot spots such as London and Edinburgh. Produced in partnership with insights company CGA Peach, the research classed independents as operators having “fewer than three sites” and focused on cities with “more than 100 independent restaurant sites”. The study showed Leeds and Newcastle leading the way, with a 12.8% increase in the number of independent restaurants. Both cities have retained strong business communities and have thriving universities. Leeds in particular has actively nurtured its startup restaurant scene, with the Independent Food and Drink Academy offering support and advice and the Leeds Indie Food festival giving entrepreneurs a platform to promote themselves. Sheffield, less affected by an influx of national chains, also performed well with 8.5% growth, beating London’s 7.4%, with Liverpool on 6.5%. Although not included in this specific survey, smaller northern cities also performed well, with Sunderland and Hull topping the overall national charts with growth rates of 23.4% and 17.2% respectively, the latter benefiting from interest generated by its recent “UK City of Culture” award. The relatively mature restaurant scenes in Edinburgh and Manchester offered less opportunity for independents, with only 1.6% and 3.1% growth respectively, although the two cities had the largest independent restaurant scenes outside London, with almost twice as many sites as the other largest provincial cities. Northern Restaurant & Bar chief executive Thom Hetherington said: “Despite high streets having a torrid time, the figures clearly show consumers are hungry to support smaller local restaurant operators, with the north performing particularly well. Every corner of the UK now seems to be attracting and retaining a new generation of foodie entrepreneurs.” CGA Peach director Jamie Campbell added: “Manchester is interesting in that its city centre restaurant scene, covered by this survey, has surged hugely in the past decade. The scene is still incredibly dynamic and many ‘independent’ operators have now grown to encompass five or more sites, and increased costs and a lack of available sites mean the current generation of entrepreneurial chefs and restaurateurs are looking to the suburbs for affordable opportunities.” Northern Restaurant & Bar takes place at Manchester Central on Tuesday (21 March) and Wednesday (22 March).
Italian pizzeria Lievito opens debut UK site: Italian pizzeria and craft beer concept Lievito has opened its debut UK site, in London. The company has launched the restaurant in Fulham Road having previously agreed a deal with landlord Sloane Stanley Estate. Spread over two floors totaling 1,099 square feet, the pizzeria caters for 40 to 45 covers and offers a grab-and-go service. Alongside a menu offering pizza and traditional Calabrian dishes native to the south west region of Italy, the restaurant presents a wide variety of specialty craft beers and stocks authentic Italian produce. The interior retains many original features of the Victorian building, including cast iron stoves. The restaurant design incorporates a visible pizza oven coupled with low-lighting around the exposed brickwork alcoves of the original cellars. Lievito founder Rocco Caridi said: “Our concept breaks the mould of traditional pizzerias, marrying innovation with authenticity and in turn producing something one-off. Our restaurant reflects Calabria both in style and identity, and we are delighted to showcase this in London, specifically in Chelsea. As a brand, we desire to grow and reach new customers, and there is no better place for us to do this than the Fulham Road.” Sloane Stanley commercial property manager Hannah Grievson added: “Lievito is a fantastic addition to the Fulham Road. Their authentic Italian offering builds on the exceptional existing line-up of dining. With an international catchment, affluent residents and a reputation for excellent retail and food operators, this is an ideal place for Lievito to share the authentic taste of Calabria with the UK.”