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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7

APPLES AND ORANGES


At this time of year I get the annual barrage of holiday value price comparisons between Ireland and the hot spots with online posts of restaurant bills from the sunnier climes and how back here in Ireland it would be twice the price if not more. When I say this is like comparing apples and oranges it is usually met with complete indifference as the ordinary punter is simply not going to look beyond the bottom line of the final amount it has cost them. We are by nature not going to go deep into the details of a car service or a medical diagnosis either when we just want the garage to get what is broken working or the doctor to fix our ailment.

The simple fact is that the cost of running a food business in say Spain is far less punitive than here. First we are an island so we have to transport in a lot of our ingredients and because of our size it is more expensive to run as a smaller country anyway from economies of scale. Spain produces a lot of its own food and we import most of ours. Go figure. The food cost for the Spanish kitchen will be half of an Irish one. We have to charge more to business to keep our lights on as well so across the scale business and personal taxes are greater. Our VAT rate here is just about to be raised again to the higher level putting us right back up the Euro charts.


Then we have labour costs, the wages here are sometimes double than what one earns in Spain, so a chef or waiter in Spain is not taking home what is paid here by a long shot. The Irish employer has to pay a lot more social security to employ staff; it is not as easy to get away with paying cash here as it is in Spain. When you do get caught here, the penalties are severe; you might get a slap on the wrist by the Spanish lawmakers. So employment regulation is adhered to much more than in Spain and with lower wage bills of course your menu will reflect this.


On the alcohol front the contrast is even starker. The duties here are among the highest in Europe so with Spain making its own wine and good stuff at that, then your price of vino just cannot be brought into the debate. It is the same with beer and spirits, the taxes paid here far exceed what the typical Spanish restaurant will be paying. Ok if you want your Guinness over there it costs but on holidays you should really be going local and this will cost less.

There are also the general regulations and compliance levels across food and hospitality that are meant to be consistently enforced Europe wide and while we very much follow the letter of the law, I know from much experience it is just not the same adherence on the continent. Compliance is very much a la carte. When I ask continental food workers based here if they have our level of food safety back in their own country it is met with absolute derision. As a trainer in this field I also see it by their poor level of knowledge. So if a business does not have to meet all these additional costs of compliance and training then again it means a cheaper meal for the punter.


Then we have the culture of the hospitality trade itself. It is rare for a restaurant to last more than twenty years here before being sold off and someone else having a go at it. On the continent you might have several generations passing a restaurant onto their kids each time and so the bricks and mortar will be owned and not rented from some landlord and not having to pay rent is a big chunk of a weekly turnover that the customer must pay for too. When you have to factor in the extortionate rent, insurance and excessive council rates here then again it is all added to your bill.


It is a choice to eat or stay at low or high priced locations, Ireland is by all its specific circumstances a high price destination but there is value and quality. Some operators do rip off the public like room price hiking on big event weekends and on food we do need actually to import like our oranges but we also import most of the apples we eat when we grow superb ones here. Nothing explains it easier than that.

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