Brexit's impact on the UK restaurant industry?

Now that the vote is in. Obviously that is a much bigger issue than dining, but what do you think may be the impact to the industry from Brexit?

  • more expensive to import ingredients because of the falling pound?
  • tougher to fill menial positions?
  • less culinary cross pollination from the continent?

What else?

where’s Harters when we need him most? :sob:

I can only speak for London but the biggest impact will be getting staff. Not so much in my part of London but in central London certainly it‘s a rarity to be served by someone British. Places like Pret A Manger will be especially hard hit young people from the EU must make up 90% of the serving staff. One wonders what will happen in places like Stockwell with a large Portuguese community which has a large number of Portuguese restaurants.

Loads of problems to come, and still to be determined. But here’s some reading if you’re genuinely interested. (I’m still too heartbroken to write out thoughts and treat this as intellectual exercise.) But just as important are issues around trade tariffs to be imposed, restrictions where EU law around food ceases to be followed, attracting skilled labour, and loss of international/EU partners. Oh, and with the loss of jobs to come in various international finance sectors, there will be fewer people looking to dine out, I imagine. And I could go on…


I doubt if there will be any noticeable changes. The Euro has ranged between 1.07 and 1.43 against the Pound over the last 7 years, so we’re not in uncharted territory yet. Overseas workers have always been able to come here to earn a living. When we’ve left the EU they’ll just need a confirmed job and a work permit. Not terribly difficult. The Roux brothers, Pierre Koffmann, Anton Mosimann, Raymond Blanc etc. all seemed to manage yonks ago. As for less cross pollination, I can’t see why, as the UK has always been packed with restaurants and shops from countries outside the EU.

Adult theme and language
slightly off topic but does reference meatballs

Given the enormous effect required for a full Brexit implementation, I still hold out hope that things will not change drastically. Yes, I’m an optimist. However, I do wonder…

can the diversity of London’s culinary offerings be traced back to UK’s EU membership, starting in the 70’s to now or is it more of a general openness to immigration that allowed London to be the cultural culinary center it is today? Was anyone around back then (70’s) who can speak to the types of restaurants available then and can compare that to UK’s culinary evolution since then?

When I think about the diverse treasures, of various types not only food, on offer in most cosmopolitan cities like London, as compared to lackluster diversity in most rural locations, I can’t help but wonder if immigrants and having a healthy ‘cross pollination’ is the source of this well nourished fountain of flavors…That’s why I can pretty much find any type of cuisine to experience in London, as opposed to say finding a decent restaurant to get an edible meal anywhere outside the immediate city limits. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

Although I’ve only lived in London for two years, I’ve rarely been ‘serviced’ by a native Brit. Whether it’s dining out, being helped in a store, getting a massage or even seeing a health specialist, almost everybody I have encountered in the services industry, and not just ‘menial worker’, are immigrants from the EU and outside the EU. How will the entire services industry be affected by the Brexit? I don’t think I’m alone in saying, “I have no idea.” It sounds like nobody, even the Brexit leadership, has a clue, a plan or any strategy of how things will unfold in the coming days, months, years…

The only positive to Brexit, IMHO, is that it’s taken the spotlight off the crazy political situation in my home country. For that I’m thankful to the Brexit voters. However, I sympathize with the fear of uncertainty, worry and hopelessness that the UK as a nation must be feeling right now.


A lot of restaurant produce in London comes from the continent. Natoora and the other suppliers in Bermondsey seem to source a lot of fruit and veg from Italy. Leaving the single market would seemingly be disastrous across the board, but if it happens prices in restaurants will certainly rise.

Maybe it’ll reduce food miles if imports reduce…

Robin - my experience of eating and drinking through the years has been that the immigration rules often drove the experience.

In my student days I loved the Irish pubs in the immigrant Irish communities then headed for a curry house run by Ugandan Asians, or chips from the Chinese chippy run by the folks from Hong Kong.

During my early career every bar was staffed by Aussies, Kiwi’s, Sarfies, etc who were taking advantage of the 2 year work visas available young travellers from old Commonwealth countries…although that didn’t seem to impact the food options.

In more recent times the bars and restaurants were staffed initially by eastern Europeans as their countries entered the EU, then more Southern Europeans as their economies suffered from the GFC. And there seemed to be a corresponding improvement in food with interesting Eastern European shops, better Italian and Spanish restaurants etc.

Those three examples from the last forty years illustrate how one segment of the food/drink industry has evolved. With a change in immigration policies we will no doubt see similar changes in the future. I agree that (even with a points system) there will still be immigration and people will still migrate for work. But the food industry relies on young, economically challenged people, and the cost of a visas to work in the UK isn’t cheap - I recall my partners was over 1,000 pounds five years ago…so I think there will be far fewer Europeans but who will replace them…time will tell.

Obviously immigration is only one of many factors. Another - food production is truly global - here in Sydney one of the media commentators remarked that 40 years ago the exit vote would have had an calametous impact on Australian exports (most went to the old country) for dairy and meat. But these days very little impact as nearly all its Australian food exports go to the middle east and Asia - markets that pay premiums for produce and which Australia was forced to develop after they lost access to the market as a result of the UK joining the EU.

The market for food is highly demand driven given the emerging appetites of China and India. It will be interesting to see where the UK goes for its food and at what price…especially if there are any tariff barriers for trade from the EU.

All that said, people will still travel freely. the UK will still be connected to the web so there will be lots of appetite for new things. It will be interesting to see how they are satisfied and how much of a food culture is influenced by demand or supply. Maybe in the past it was all supply side (we feel in love with curry because it was decent, cheap and available) but now the world is so much more open it maybe more demand side…?


This made me laugh - maybe an illustration of the difference between US and UK English. “Serviced” in this context is usual reserved for services of a sexual nature…although I suspect the point stands.


No. There’s no difference. In this particular context, I think the US and UK share the same meaning. I just hadn’t thought of that meaning when I wrote my initial response. Hope I didn’t offend anyone…


As it’s becoming clearer that we’ll be going for a “hard Brexit”, it’s possible to speculate further on how it will affect the hospitality industry. There are parts of the country, mainly larger urban areas, where it’s rare to be served by a Brit. This is not a new thing - restaurant service (and hotel work) have traditionally been jobs that Brits did not do. Or, at least, not do as a first choice career.

So, we’re looking at low paid jobs in a country where we have lower levels of unemployment than for many years. If immigration from the EU is curtailed and Brits are already employed in other occupations, then where are the workers going to come from? I think it will mean that, if there is to be visa based immigration, then we are still going to have EU citizens (or folk from other countries) immigrating here in pretty much the numbers that we’ve seen in recent years. There will be similar issues in other low paid industriies. Going to mean that a lot of people who voted to leave the EU to see big reductions in immgration are going to be disappointed. And how that disappointment manifests itself is another rather worrying political matter.


There have been some speculations that there will be financial companies considering moving their HQ to elsewhere in Europe, like Frankfurt, from London. With a bunch of highly compensated financial workers who has the disposable income to dine out potentially leaving, the variety and level of cuisine in London may suffer as a result.

I agree. It’s going to be interesting to see how the practicalities work out. Catering in the UK has been driven by “foreign” workers going back to the steamy frothy Italian/Greek coffee bars of my misspent youth which is way before the EU.

I suspect they will come from where they come from now, they just won’t have papers.

That happens a lot in the US. Most kitchens here would fall apart if it weren’t for illegals.

Also I expect Brexit will have less of an impact than most doomsayers expect. Switzerland and Norway do ok without it. There might even be advantages for the financial community to stay in London with proper legislation. Those guys are very sensitive to tax treatment.

I’ve noticed historically that the Brits are good at giving the two fingers to Germany & France. :grinning:

The bigger problem is what those nutters on the northern border are going to do, but then that’s been an issue since Edward Longshanks.

The use of foreign workers in catering goes way back. You look at upper end restaurants (usually in hotels) in late Victorian/Edwardian times and chef is invariably French and the waiters are German.

By the by, the employment of Germans in “office jobs” in the pre First World War period was very popular. Job adverts wold regularly state “Germans preferred”. It was because they were perceived to work harder than the Brits and worked cheaper. Some things don’t change.

You know if the pound keeps falling there is going to be a tourist boom:

I’m thinking it’s a good time for a visit.

If the British government was going to do a deal based on Norway’s deal, then most of us Remainers would have minimal objection. But they aren’t.

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And the predominant language of international business and finance is English.