The Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective – A Call for Clarity
Restaurants occupy a unique place in our lives. These are the places we go to mark engagements, births, graduations, promotions. To celebrate, to commiserate. To meet old friends and new friends, to do business. To take time for ourselves. To be spoiled and cosseted and insulated from our cares for a few hours, with that soft golden glow a really good meal can give you. Restaurants matter.
Many thousands of livelihoods depend on the industry. And strange times call for unusual measures, which is why a collective of notable Welsh restaurants has recently formed to publicly approach the Welsh Government on behalf of their peers.
Clarity and support are paramount right now. Clarity on what the plans are for the reopening of the industry, and leadership toward some optimistic future, support as they move toward rebuilding their businesses. It’s a simple request and a screamingly obvious one: businesses need to be able to plan accruing to whichever new guidelines are issued, and they need time and resources to do so. Anything else would be fast tracked chaos and confusion, as we are already seeing in England. That need has been thrown into even sharper focus by the Scottish government’s prediction this week of a July 15th reopening.
The initial Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective (WIRC) approach to Welsh Government highlighted the central role the restaurant industry plays in the country, with 135,000 jobs dependent on the sector, saying ‘They are part of the fabric of Welsh life’.
It’s not an oppositional stance: it’s a call for cooperation. For leadership. They’re not advocating for some reckless relaxation of safety rules, some headlong rush to salvage their businesses at the cost of safety. And as the days have gone by with no solution in sight, they have now released their own ‘10 Step Plan For A Safe and Secure Re-opening of Hospitality Businesses’.
They don’t just speak for the ‘top end’ of the Welsh industry. It’s an illustrious list of course, with some names instantly recognisable and chefs familiar to diners and TV viewers alike.
Of course, they represent far more than that. They are merely the mouthpiece for all independents. This affects every independent family owned business. The Italian where you’ve been going for years, where they know everyone in your party by name and remember every preference and favourite you have. The Lebanese grill house you always end up in, craving the kiss of smoke on meat and vegetables alike. The place you took your now spouse to propose, where the staff were in on your plans and helped with arrangements, or where the staff toasted the birth of your child, or the pizza place which never lets you down. It’s the Indian which always slips in an extra bhaji because you’ve been ordering every Friday for years or the delivery driver which says ‘Ah yes that’s the one with the red front door isn’t it’ when you phone. And yes, many of these people have responded to this appalling threat to their livelihoods by feeding NHS workers. This is an industry which has made its country proud.
No one is immune, Even high street brands are suffering, but family-owned businesses are obviously less able to absorb catastrophic damage. Besides, they are the ones providing something unique, building our food culture. They are our concern.
We would suggest contacting your MP directly to add your voice to these concerns. Keep supporting our independents’ innovations in the meantime, and please bypass Just Eat, Deliveroo and their ilk if possible. If you like what they do, get their menu and contact them directly so they aren’t handing your money over to huge concerns.