The hospitality industry is facing many challenges, the issue of VAT being a very important one. For many years, we have written articles and produced podcasts informing you about the role of VAT and how it works in the hospitality industry, and we won’t stop.
We genuinely understand how difficult it is to work with VAT at 20%. We know you all have to play by the rules, but how about being part of an opportunity to change these rules?
You may recall the following articles:
Around ten years ago, we put out a poster to help educate your customers on VAT. Many customers still today have no idea that 20% of the meal price goes to The Treasury. We have always said that educating customers starts in your shop, with a bottom-up approach.
In our view, it’s always useful to have a notice on your menus and a tax or VAT subtotal on your receipts; you cannot complain that customers don’t know about VAT if they are not informed. Whilst it’s not foolproof, you may do this and customers still don’t take any notice, it is best practice and gives you something to point to if a customer takes issue with your pricing.
Now and then the topic of lobbying government about reduced VAT comes up. I genuinely believe that you need to start the process now by first educating your local MP on the role VAT plays within your business. With the temporary cut to 5% meaning VAT is already low, this is the ideal time to lobby your MP on the reasons for keeping it low and the benefits this could have on hospitality. You would hope he/she would want to truly support your local business and relay information back up to the right people in government. There is no harm whatsoever in liaising with your local MP, be informative and talk about the real issues.
The conversation should start on a one-to-one level, but you should then escalate it to your trade organisation to push the agenda on a national level.
If you need some talking points about VAT on a broader level, then get in touch with Andrew Crook (President) from the NFFF. If you want the NFFF to pursue this agenda they will need funds. If you are not a member, now is the time to become one.
Remember, this is a fight that will take a lot of time, so be patient and play the long game but do not give up.
We have put some points together to help when liaising with your MP, and also attached a free template letter to which you can add your details and send to your MP. Feel free to change what you need to but don’t move away from the talking points. (no purchase necessary)
It’s your MP’s job to make your voice heard in Parliament whether you voted for them or not. They represent your local area and can raise concerns of local people.
✅ Vote on issues in Parliament
✅ Write to the government minister responsible for the issue or make an appointment to see them
✅ Ask questions in Parliament (‘Parliamentary Questions’ or PQs) about issues you raise
✅ Ask for a debate in Parliament. A relevant minister will always attend this debate to respond to your MP on behalf of the government
Meeting someone face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to influence them and it’s a great way to build an ongoing relationship.
The first thing to do is to contact the person you want to meet (e.g. your politician) or their office.
Some people hold regular meetings that you could attend, so do ask if there are any coming up that you could join. For example, politicians hold regular meetings in their constituencies called surgeries and are an ideal place to raise your concerns.
You may not have long to talk, maybe only five to ten minutes, so it’s important to be prepared and get to the point in order to get your key messages across successfully. Another option is to group together with others. Showing that there are several people who feel strongly about an issue may be more effective.
❗When campaigning you often need to grab people’s attention, and this means doing things a little differently. Not many people now send letters, so taking the time to do a personalised (maybe even hand written) letter can be extremely effective. Here are our top tips for success:
❗Make sure your MP can get back in touch with you by including your contact information at the top of the letter. If you are contacting your local politician this will also let them know that you are a local constituent and potential voter!
❗Have a clear “ask” – don’t confuse your core message by not asking for something specific or by asking for too many different things at once.
❗Be succinct and try to keep your letter to one side of A4, if possible.
Our template will get you started.
You can find out who your MP, MSP, AM or MLA is, and their relevant contact details (including parliamentary and constituency offices) from the websites below:
➡️ For MPs
➡️ For MSPs (Scotland)
➡️ For AMs (Wales)
➡️ For MLAs (Northern Ireland)
You can also find, and write to, any of your elected representatives through: writetothem.com/
Be polite. It may seem obvious but being polite goes a long way to getting your argument taken seriously. The person you are trying to influence may not agree with you, but you always have to take the higher ground by staying cool, collected and friendly. Always remember to say thank you for their time.
Leave your contact details. You will want to start a two-way conversation with the person you’re talking to, so make sure they can get back in touch with you and you know how to get back in touch with them.
Think about how to follow up. You may want to follow up a face-to-face meeting with a letter thanking them for their time – and reminding them of why you want them to act. As well as being a useful reminder, it also shows how serious you are about the issue.
Let us know how you get on. We’d love to know about your campaign and how it is going. Email us anytime.