One of Ireland’s leading chefs has predicted a crash in the Dublin hospitality industry this year, with Derry Clarke of Michelin-starred L'Ecrivain claiming "there is too much value" in Dublin at the moment.
?Clarke, speaking at the National Hospitality Conference and Awards at Dublin's Four Season's Hotel, was making reference to the increasing number of restaurants which are offering two and three course meals for less than €15. “The number of restaurants offering meal deals at economically non-viable prices just isn’t sustainable, it's the same cost in McDonalds, but we have all of the overheads,” he said. "There is going to be a crash, in Dublin in particular, in the next year."
During the conference, a number of industry experts also directed harsh criticism toward the Michelin Guide, after the recent "uninspiring" announcement of their star recipients. “To the average diner, Michelin is about as relevant as a trouser press,” said Tim Magee, of Host & Company.
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Contributors to the conference were especially critical of the number of Irish restaurants that weren’t recognised by the Michelin Guide 2013, particularly the ommission of The Greenhouse on Dawson St.
"According to the guide that Noma and Mugaritz, which both have two stars, are just worth a detour. Not worth a special journey. That is their take on the world’s most influential restaurant and one of world's best yet they list a half dozen soulless near identical 3 stars in Lyon and Paris that they claim are worth the special journey to but most having the atmosphere of a dentist or Dubai Duty Free," said Magee.*
Despite the retention of a 9% VAT rate for the tourism industry in the recent budget, the government came under increasing fire for their willingness to increase excise duty. "It's the same old story," said Deirdre Devitt of The Two Sisters. "Always hitting the excise. This just widens the gap between the on- and off-trade."
This was a theme constantly revisited, with many publicans and nightclub owners commenting on the problem with below-cost alcohol sales. "We need an umbrella organisation to deal with this," claimed Anthony Friel of Friel Marketing Solutions. "A group that represents the full hospitality sector, including pubs and nightclubs. We have been reactive for too many years, we need to be dynamic. We need to get together to save the thousands of jobs in this industry." Meanwhile Phillip Smyth of Shannon College of Hotel Management claimed a great way to ensure the industry remains strong is to add Tourism Studies to the Leaving Cert curriculum.
*This article has been amended.