By Marisa Bidois, CEO Restaurant Association of New Zealand
As we step into the year 2024, we do so with cautious optimism. Our industry is no stranger to change, and the coming year promises a mix of opportunities and challenges.
In 2023, our industry marked a momentous milestone with the establishment of a dedicated Hospitality Minister—an accomplishment that fills me with particular pride. At the Restaurant Association, we tirelessly advocated for this change over several years, and witnessing it finally come to fruition is truly gratifying.
We believe that this development is of utmost significance, as it cements our industry’s permanent place in the Government’s narrative. We are optimistic that this newfound influence will lead to positive changes that benefit our industry as a whole, enabling us to drive meaningful improvements for the betterment of all involved.
Along with this major milestone achievement, we also see the reinstatement of 90-day trial periods, and the repeal of the Fair Pay Agreements. These changes have brought much needed optimism for our businesses.
Nonetheless, it was also a year marked by substantial cost-of-living challenges. Coupled with adverse weather conditions that severely impacted various regions in the North Island, these factors presented formidable hurdles for our industry to overcome.
Looking at the economic landscape, we are seeing five key risk areas: inflation, fiscal policy, population growth, the housing market, and geopolitics. Encouragingly, experts forecast a gradual decline in inflation. This reduction is expected to ease the financial burden on households, which has historically resulted in increased patronage at our establishments.
Turning to regulatory changes, two significant developments are on the horizon. First, Trial Periods will become accessible to all, a long-awaited change that offers a bit more flexibility when working through your hiring process, but be warned there are still strict guidelines to follow when implementing and relying on this provision. Second, the unwinding of Fair Pay Agreements will provide another welcome respite for our businesses.
Visitor numbers are also expected to continue their growth trajectory. This trend not only benefits our industry but also bolsters the overall economy. As tourists flock to our beautiful country, our members across the nation are poised to showcase the diversity and excellence of Aotearoa’s culinary scene.
Despite ongoing skills shortages, our recent surveys suggests that the severity of this issue has lessened compared to recent years. However, it is still an area for us to focus on and to address this challenge, we must persist in developing our workforce through training and development programmes.
The Restaurant Association remains steadfast in its commitment to working with our members to find innovative solutions and bridge the skills gap. Investing in our workforce is pivotal to delivering exceptional dining experiences.
Profitability remains a central focus for our industry. After enduring some of the toughest years on record, it is imperative that our businesses continue to review their systems and processes vigilantly. Many have persevered through trying times, and the upcoming year presents an opportunity to rebuild and ensure sustainability. The Restaurant Association is dedicated to providing support and resources to help our members flourish.
In conclusion, 2024 holds promise and potential for the restaurant industry, along with its fair share of challenges. We must remain adaptable, responsive to change, and committed to delivering the exceptional dining experiences our customers have come to expect. By seizing opportunities and collaborating, we can surmount obstacles and guarantee a prosperous year for our industry.
As CEO of the Restaurant Association, I want to emphasise our unwavering commitment to supporting our industry and fostering its success. Together, we can make 2024 a year marked by growth, resilience, and culinary excellence.