Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is leaving a nasty taste in the mouth of London’s food and wine industry. As Hayley Platt reports, importers are hard-hit by the pound’s dramatic decline and the vibrant food sector worries Brexit will make it tough to recruit enough staff.
(BVO) – Brandisa has been importing Spanish produce into London for nearly 30 years.
MONIKA LINTON, FOUNDER BRINDISA,
“The immediate impact is very clearly the currency, because we spend probably around 11 million euros a year on products from Spain and food from Spain and so that is now costing us roughly two million more and that needs to be found.”
Brandisa also runs five restaurants, employing 300 people.
It’s one of 27,000 businesses in the sector – which has an annual turnover of more than £14 billion.
The industry is heavily reliant on unskilled workers.
And it’s estimated up to half of them are foreign, with many enjoying free movement within the EU.
PETER HARDEN, CO-FOUNDER OF ‘HARDEN’S LONDON RESTAURANTS’ GUIDE BOOK,
“We do all agree that we’d love as many rocket scientists and brain surgeons to move to the UK as possible but, you know, the hospitality and tourism trade is incredibly important too. And in general it is not reliant on skilled labour, it is reliant on unskilled labour.”
Some credit foreign workers with transforming British food culture.
BRUCE POOLE, OWNER AND CHEF AT RESTAURANT ‘CHEZ BRUCE’ SAYING:
“You’ll hear people talk about the revolution in restaurants in the UK, particularly London, in the last 20 years. That is absolutely down to the people who have worked in the industry here. You know, it’s not British people making British decisions when it comes to food.”
And for now the only way many small firms can cope is by raising prices.