NI takeout pleads for support as body warns quarter could close due to rising costs

A body representing takeaways across Northern Ireland has warned that businesses will close if no help is offered to their industry.

The Northern Ireland Takeaway Association fears that without financial support and tax relief it will see a quarter of takeaways forced to close shop.

As fish and chicken prices rise, alongside soaring energy costs and the end of tariff holidays, some takeout owners are unsure of what the future holds for their team of employees and their loyal customers.

Read more:Belfast takeaways argue for direct ordering due to impact of third-party platforms

Speaking to Belfast Live, NI Takeaway Association boss Michael Henderson echoed calls for Stormont and the UK government to step in and offer help.

He said: “We’ve been around for three and a half years now and I’m the founder. I’ve been in the industry for about ten years and I kept hearing the same thing – that there was no support.

“Our industry is very diverse, from every ethnic minority group to every type of cuisine you can think of. It’s never really been under one roof, which is why I decided to start the NI Takeaway Association , to bring everyone together.

Michael Henderson, founder of the Northern Ireland Takeaway Association

“We now have nearly 500 members and a committee of experts to help us move forward.

“When the restrictions came into effect they hit our industry very hard, but we played by all the rules and when we went through that war broke out.

“It’s another tidal wave of problems hitting the takeaway industry. Everything seems to be going up in price, and that’s scary. The 20% VAT is going to be the reason why a quarter of our takeaways will close.

“This week I spoke to a member of Strabane, which is closing, so it’s not a city problem, not a Belfast problem. It’s a Northern Ireland-wide problem. North and a problem in the UK You have at least one takeaway in every community across Northern Ireland.

“You can’t say that about another industry.”

Michael said he has heard of many takeaways closing over the past few weeks, due to financial pressures.

And while that hurts the owners and staff, it also has a ripple effect on the community it has served for years.

He added: “Our team is hearing heartbreaking stories and these are takeaways that have been in business for decades.

“These takeaways are at the heart of their communities – despite all the challenges they face, they are involved in youth clubs and sponsor local sports teams.

Michael Henderson speaking to Belfast Live
Michael Henderson speaking to Belfast Live

“When the takeaways go, those sponsorships go too. I was in a takeaway in West Belfast last week and they were running out of stock before closing time. A member of staff started crying. His children are starting the school in September and she will now be out of a job.

“With takeout, they’re offering flexible working hours, the kind of hours that work for people who may have a young family at home.

“Listening to these stories it’s heartbreaking. It’s the fear that we won’t hear about these closures in the future if we don’t get the support of Stormont and the UK government.”

Gavin Brown, owner of Browns Chippy on Suffolk Road in West Belfast, explained the rising costs they are seeing every day.

He said: “We opened 14 years ago and we haven’t looked back. There were a lot of hurdles – we had Brexit and it was tough for us, then Covid came along.

“Now we are feeling the effects of the war in Ukraine – the prices are only going up. All the stocks are blowing up and we are seeing crazy prices.

“We’re a chippy community and our customers are all based around us here and it’s tough but we’re going to have to pass that price on to the customer in order to stay in business. It’s heartbreaking but that’s the reality of this that the takeout industry is currently going through.

Gavin Brown, owner of Browns on Suffolk Road
Gavin Brown, owner of Browns on Suffolk Road

“Chicken prices are going up every two days. Cheese prices are exploding. Potatoes. Fish. Everything is going up. Electricity and gas have doubled, then the 20% VAT is a total killer.

“There are a lot of people using third-party platforms to order, and it would be a huge help if they approached us directly. It would help local businesses.

“The Browns are loyal to our community, we always have been and we love the community. We sponsor local sports teams and want to continue that way. It’s a ripple effect that the takeout industry is seeing, it’s not just business owners, it’s their staff who are feeling the pinch too.

“I think if the government reviewed the VAT, 20% is a total killer. They had it at 12.5% ​​and it was more manageable. We think they will review it in October, but by then , locations will close at that time, with two in the area closing in the coming weeks.

“If we didn’t own the premises and pay rent, we could never stay open.”

Joe Morgan owns Nemos, which is based at Finaghy in Belfast, and he’s also seen huge price rises in most things from fish to vegetable oil.

“In any case, everything price related has gone up and the worst thing for us is the price of fish,” Joe told Belfast Live.

NEMOS in Finaghy
NEMOS in Finaghy

“It’s gone from around £155 for three stone, and now it’s over £308 now. It’s hit hard and we’re feeling it from every angle. Nothing at all going down in price, nothing.

“Working in a fish and chip shop is not a very well paid job and the cost of living has skyrocketed. There’s a place in Whiterock that closed this week, it’s heartbreaking for all of us.

“There are small chip shops in local areas that just can’t afford to raise prices. We’ve come out of a recession, into Covid and now into a war. It’s been hit, after the fact , afterwards.

“VAT is killing us. We need support and we need it now. We’re not getting anything. Even if they could lower that VAT threshold, we might be able to survive. Rate holidays are on the way to end, and it’s kind of scary.”

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