‘It’s a ticking time bomb’: Belfast restaurant owner Shu worries local businesses about rising prices

The owner of a popular restaurant in south Belfast said he has never faced the huge costs associated with the business he has run for more than two decades.

restaurants, cafes and businesses have closed across Northern Ireland while those still working must contend with rising food and energy prices.

Shu restaurant owner Alan Reid said there is no difference in the number of people coming to the Lisburn Road diner, but the cost of doing business is crippling.

This includes many different issues that not only businesses and restaurants, but also ordinary consumers are facing as the cost of living crisis approaches a difficult winter.

Yesterday the Bank of England announced that interest rates have risen to 1.75% and inflation should now exceed 13%, with a recession expected in the UK later this year.

Mr Reed said his popular restaurant has yet to face any major impact on its customers, but says it’s a different story behind the scenes.

“We were busy on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we may not be as busy at lunch due to the impact on the corporate scene, but at the moment we are being hit hard by entry costs of doing business, utilities and expenses. especially the cost of cooking oil,” he said.

Earlier this year, vegetable oil faced severe shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world’s largest supplier of the ingredient.

“It’s at least three times more expensive, which is a lot of money for our type of business. What cost us about £6/7000 last year is now around £24,000,” the businessman said.

Mr. Reed says price increases for items such as butter outweigh increases in food prices, such as dairy and meat products, to be used in his restaurant, but he is most affected by the cost of actually running his restaurant.

“Our electricity bills have gone up from 20k to 60k a year, these are huge numbers, our numbers are related to our food, they certainly aren’t going down, but they don’t affect us as much as our energy or gas costs.” .

He also says there have been hiring issues, saying he had an incredibly difficult time finding new staff due to “low unemployment”.

Asked if any of his regulars shared any concerns about the rising cost of everything that affects their food choices, Mr. Reid said he thought his customers were more than aware of current situation in terms of rising costs, adding in his letter. opinion he believes that people value the social experience of a restaurant more.

“I think our clients are generally very well informed. They expect prices to go up, and while that doesn’t mean they can afford to pay, we’re at a crossroads, but have I seen it yet? No.

“I think people really appreciate the social aspect of a restaurant, we are social animals and that’s not going to change, but everyone can afford it to the same extent and our trade is still very good.”

However, he warns that such a small, seemingly insignificant change as reducing the number of meals in restaurants to once a month can be disastrous for restaurant owners.

“This is a competitive restaurant trade market, but people will not stop going out. All restaurants need to feel intense pain is for people to reduce the number of times they go out to a restaurant from twice a month to once. If everyone starts doing this, you will cut 50% of the trade and you will definitely see a lot of casualties. ”

He continued his warning, foreseeing the approaching winter months.

Mr. Reed says Shu’s electricity bill was higher last month, when the restaurant was closed for the holidays for ten days, than it was last winter.

“The big impact of all of this is when the winter months roll in, people don’t need to heat their homes yet, and we don’t need to heat a restaurant, and in the winter those utility bills are going to be huge. It’s a ticking time bomb, it’s very disturbing.”