In the latest episode of the Ceres Podcast, host Stelios engages in a deep conversation with Kate Nicholls OBE, the influential chief executive of UKHospitality. Episode 142 marks a significant moment in Season 7, delving into the challenges and opportunities facing the hospitality sector in the UK straight from one of the industry's most authoritative voices.
Kate Nicholls has been at the forefront of hospitality advocacy since UKHospitality's inception in 2018, bringing a wealth of experience from her roles with ALMR and as a strategic consultant. Her extensive involvement in policy-making forums, including the Government's Hospitality, Tourism and Food & Drink Sector Councils, positions her uniquely to discuss the critical issues facing the sector.
The episode tackles three key asks ahead of the budget, which could define the future trajectory of the hospitality industry:
1. Business Rates Reform: UKHospitality advocates for a 3% cap on business rates increases, challenging the proposed 6.7% hike. The discussion explores whether this approach is sufficient or necessary for a more radical overhaul, especially considering the disparities between large chains and small independents.
2. Employer National Insurance Contributions: The call for temporary changes, including a cut in the lower rate of employer NICs, is dissected. UKH questions if abolishing employers' NI for a fairer tax system could provide a more significant benefit, especially for small businesses that already enjoy certain allowances.
3. VAT Reduction for the Sector: A proposed 12.5% VAT rate could be a game-changer for hospitality, potentially boosting demand and allowing businesses to pass savings to customers. UKH probes the government's willingness to implement such a measure and its impact on the sector's competitiveness and pricing strategies.
The conversation doesn't shy away from the nuanced needs of different business sizes within the sector, emphasising the unique challenges of independents versus chains. Nicholls also addresses the broader implications of these policy asks, including their potential to advantage larger businesses over smaller ones.
Listeners will find Nicholls' insights into VAT particularly intriguing, as she discusses the likelihood of a reduction, the debates surrounding a sector-specific rate versus a universal cut, and the strategic use of VAT to either enhance margins or pass savings to consumers.
Episode 142 of the Ceres Podcast goes beyond the surface, inviting listeners to consider the profound complexities of hospitality policy. It's a must-listen for anyone interested in the economic forces shaping one of the UK's most vibrant sectors. Whether you're a small cafe owner, a manager of a large hotel chain, or simply a consumer interested in the future of dining and leisure in the UK, this episode promises valuable perspectives and thought-provoking discussions.
Take advantage of this critical conversation with Kate Nicholls, a leader whose work could dictate the direction of UK hospitality in the coming years.