POLITICALLY OR GEOGRAPHICALLY, WE’RE ALL EUROPEANS ANYWAY
Corned beef hash topped with a griddled egg? Beef fat dipped sandwich? Comforting veggie pie served with mash and gravy on the side? Sounds like a bang on-trend East London food truck menu, doesn’t it? It certainly would have been eaten as street food, but not in 2016 – these items would have been the backbone of street parties hosted 70 years ago – almost to the day - to celebrate VE day.
Why look back to 1945? Well, June’s referendum on Britain’s on-going membership of the European Union didn’t just throw up an unexpected result, it also set in motion some of the biggest political and social events seen since the end of the War itself. Clearly, the fallout from the result of the vote itself has dominated the headlines in preceding weeks, but what does it mean for the Foodservice industry? Where can we take positives, and where are the pitfalls likely to be?
One of the early positive impacts has been a seeming uplift of in-bound tourism to the UK. The morning after the vote, the value of Sterling plummeted, which seems to have encouraged a range of tourists from across both Europe and the globe to make the most of their cash and come to the UK. A weak pound certainly isn’t good for the wider economy, but for those seeking to serve more covers, a bigger audience with more ready cash to part with is clearly a good thing. I imagine that once the current holiday season is over we may very well see UK holiday makers re-evaluating their destination choices, and with a poor exchange rate versus the Euro, there is a very real possibility that the hotels, tea shops and B&Bs of Devon, The Cotswolds and the English Lakes may well see an increased spend from UK consumers.
This potential increase in business brings with it concerns over service levels and one of the core pre-vote concerns of the industry - staffing. Jamie Oliver was just one prominent proprietor to put his head above the parapet in May to say that he felt leaving Europe would harm his business as the free movement of individuals was a genuine benefit to his business in terms of effective recruitment. The industry is already facing a skills crisis – which is likely to only increase as the pool of available skilled service and preparation talent decreases. Another issue faced by chefs will be around the rising cost of goods and the potential for import levy restrictions or increases.
Of course, the reality is that – very much like all the campaign manifestos and pre-vote rubric – no one really knows anything at all, and that we will just have to wait and see what this means for us all – whatever our connection to the industry. So, an inconclusive conclusion to the whole debate, and one that means we all just need to be prepared for pretty much any eventuality. It could be brilliant, it could be awful, but it will certainly be challenging and one day most likely won’t look anything like the next…
At least, rationing concluded in 1954, so at least we can all choose precisely how many eggs we want with our Corned Beef Hash!