Restaurant owner warns of €4 increase on main courses due to rising costs

A restaurant owner has warned that diners could face at least €4 extra on a main course as biting price increases hit businesses ‘left, right and centre like a pin cushion’
Restaurant owner warns of €4 increase on main courses due to rising costs

Louise Walsh

A restaurant owner has warned that diners could face at least €4 extra on a main course as biting price increases hit businesses "left, right and centre like a pin cushion".

Mick Hughes from The Stockhouse Restaurant in Trim, Co Meath, estimates that his supply and wage costs have increased by an average of 26 per cent – and this is before the spikes in energy from May 1st.

The owner of the highly rated eatery, which has been open for eight years, says the industry is "running on borrowed time".

"I understand that inflation is likely to be rated at 7 per cent today, but you can triple that in my case," he said.

"A 20 litre drum of cooking oil has risen from €22 to €32 which is a 45 per cent increase, and we buy up to four of them each week.

"Catering sized packs of chicken has shot up 25 per cent from €27.95 to €36.50 and chips are up 30 per cent, from €12.50 to €16.50. We have been told that we won't be able to get the chunky chips soon because the skin is being used to feed pigs due to a shortage of meal.

"Flour is now €18.50 for a catering sized bag which we were paying €12.50 for and crab meat is almost €30, up from €24.50. And all these prices continue to spiral on a daily basis.

Mick Hughes with Justice Minister Helen McEntee and some of his staff from The Stockhouse at a recent expo aimed to attract people to the hospitality industry

"Our menus will no doubt have to change too as various food sources dwindle. We can't future-proof ourselves by buying in bulk and freezing. Our reputation was built on food being fresh.

"Services have risen 10 per cent, and we put our wages up by up to 18 per cent in an effort to keep hold of the staff we have, because many of them left the industry during the pandemic.

"We used to be open seven days a week, and we scaled this back to five days because of staff shortages. Chefs discovered they could have a life and more money by working in other industries."

'Perfect storm'

The situation has been turned into a "perfect storm" as various Covid-19 supports come to a close, he added.

"The hospitality business scheme ends this month as does the tax warehousing which means businesses will have to pay back the revenue owed or give it back in increments. Covid-19, Brexit and the war in Ukraine, it's unprecedented.

"The levies on disposable cups and the sick pay are all great ideas but are coming at the wrong time and will be the nails in the coffin for a lot of places.

"The reliefs the Government afforded us in the pandemic were a lifeline for most, but now it looks as if they will have been wasted.

"There is no escape from these hikes, and they are not sustainable, although we will maintain a positive outlook and fight the fight.

We are like a pin cushion in a perfect storm because we are being hit left, right and centre.

"We have been trying to take the hit as much as possible but have had to pass on some of the costs to customers, so main courses have increased in price by €2 and possibly will rise again by at least another €2. However, I can't see any diner paying any higher.

"That main course will cost a couple an extra €8 on top of extra costs for a night out and their own price hikes on shopping and energy bills.

"People are going to either stop going out or eat out much less.

"We are like a pin cushion in a perfect storm because we are being hit left, right and centre."

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