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ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls reflects on a busy 2017 at the ALMR Christmas Lunch

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and a very warm welcome to this year’s ALMR Christmas Lunch, as Steve has mentioned the culmination to our 25th Anniversary year.

The first time I came across the ALMR was 23 years ago when we were planning our first Lunch. At the time, I was working for Whitbread and my then boss asked me to help the ALMR with its first Christmas general meeting. We had 59 members at the time and 350 attended and it is incredibly humbling that many of those early supporters are still with us in the room today and it is an honour and a privilege to be leading the organisation today.
And Christmas Lunch remains that opportunity to pause, take stock, review the year which has just passed and look forward to the challenges to come.

This time last year, I spoke about the work we would be doing to help the government, politicians, the media and other stakeholders understand our economic, social and cultural contribution and never has that investment, those hard yards been more important this year with Brexit and the General Election – never has there been a time when your political capital mattered more. Never has there been a time when we have been so front and centre of the political debate.

Last year I set out how we had achieved a seat for hospitality at the table to give us a voice. This year, that voice has not just been heard, it has been listened to and acted upon.
Last year as I set out our priorities for Government, I said we needed a Brexit deal which worked for our people and our sector, which prioritised eating and drinking and an industrial strategy which put food and drink front and centre in the drive for growth, business support and government investment. And finally, we wanted a business tax regime which was fit for purpose.

Working together with a broad coalition of partners – and many of them are here today – we have successfully achieved all three of those asks. We had special recognition for pubs and restaurants in the Budget and future migration policy, we have a successful phase 1 Brexit deal and we secured changes in business rates which this time last year were ruled out.

I know there are still incredibly challenges and headwinds faced by the sector, but it is worth remembering that this time last year, we were facing a £9 Living Wage and pressure for a £10 rate for all workers during the Election campaign. We were facing the full business rate increasing hitting in one go with no effective appeal, no offsetting digital taxes and no transitional relief. Our vital campaigning work has saved the sector facing an additional £1.6bn of additional costs that it would otherwise have had to find if Ministers had not heard and listened.

Steve mentioned our new found strength in depth and this has been crucial at this time of change when the clamour is intense from lots of competing voices.
Our message to Government? We are a world class, world beating sector of growth champions. We are the third largest private sector employer and last year we generated 1 in 3 of all new jobs, we also outperformed the economy investing in communities across the country. But that success cannot be taken for granted. We can only go on making that positive contribution if we tackle the regulatory costs and burdens which stand in our way. Our pledge to Government is simple, free us up to do what we do best and we will deliver the forecast 6% growth and jobs, investing even more in our people by providing high-quality training and careers.

Our priorities remain to secure the right Brexit deal to keep prices low, using that opportunity to set an overall tax regime which promotes productivity and competitiveness, root and branch reform of business rates and action to tackle the digital disrupters.

But our first priority for next year is the people challenge – working with our partners at Springboard and across the trade to finalise a comprehensive strategy to address the skills and labour gaps and promote eating and drinking out as a career of choice at every entry level point – school, university and returners to work. Setting out clearly and simply the path to promotion and the training and qualifications which underpin that will be key. And I’m delighted that today we are able to publish the first plank of that – a new, accessible hospitality apprenticeship undertaken in association with HIT, CPL and the BII.
This not only helps smaller companies, in particular, to draw down their levy funding it also sets the gold standard for apprenticeships in the sector with a portable qualification and crucially it tangibly maps out career development at a sector level – something the Government has been asking us for some time.

More will follow and in time we hope to build on the model of the ALMR Operations Manager of the Year programme and Awards and I am truly delighted that our 2017 winners, Emma Deabill of Yo Sushi, Yvonne Fraser of Greene King and Adam Sykes of Fullers are here with us today celebrating their achievements.

Another strand of that work on careers and training will be with job seekers often considered harder to place. And that brings me to our charity fundraiser for today’s lunch.

I wanted to talk today about a new pilot project we are working on with Crisis to help provide a pathway to a work for those who are homeless or nearly homeless. The project will provide training in catering and hospitality at the amazing House of St Barnabas in Soho and we already have employers within the sector who are willing to take these skilled and motivated people into their teams. Over 450 people a year pass through that project and over 80% of them take on a job at the end of it – our aim is to ensure that we attract them into hospitality. The money you raise today will go to support that project and training and the LTC will also provide grants to those who get a job to keep it.
So please help us help as many people as we can at the start of their careers through your donations and, more importantly, as employers do let us know if you have any vacancies.

And finally, it is my very great pleasure to wrap up formalities by thanking some very important people.

Firstly, our fantastic team in Ealing and our extended family – all of whom do this in addition to their day job and secondly thanks to our partners without whom today could not happen. Their support and contribution to the ALMR is not only key to giving you the best possible experience today but more importantly, it is an investment in our campaigning activity, membership services ad the good of the industry as a whole. Please join me in thanking them all