‘Absolute dread’: Chefs and restaurateurs call on government to reduce VAT to 10%

‘It’s not even worry, it’s absolute dread', explains MasterChef winner Simon Wood.

Updated on • Written By Ellie Donnell

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‘Absolute dread’: Chefs and restaurateurs call on government to reduce VAT to 10%

A host of well-known chefs and restaurateurs across Manchester have joined together to rally the government to slash VAT to 10%, to reduce pressure on the hospitality industry. 

Sunday Brunch presenter and owner of the now-closed Greens in Didsbury, Simon Rimmer is one of many restaurateurs in the city calling for the government to change legislation. He’s joined by Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, along with MasterChef winner Simon Wood, Great British Menu contestant and chef Mary Ellen-McTague, Michael Clay of Elnecot, and Sam Grainger of neighbourhood bistro Belzan.  


Simon Rimmer’s Greens is just one of the restaurants to close in recent times due to the hospitality crisis. He cited rising rent and running costs for making operations ‘unviable’, forcing the vegetarian restaurant to shut its doors after 33 years. In the chef’s own words: ‘In the 33 years I’ve owned this restaurant, this is the biggest crisis I’ve even seen.’  

The government temporarily reduced VAT to 12.5% during COVID to help support businesses while footfall was low. However, rates have since returned and are currently sitting at 20%. Chefs and other operators across Manchester are calling for that figure to be cut in half.  

The campaign by Manchester’s Finest brings together much of the city’s greatest culinary talent in order to address the 5,736 hospitality businesses that closed between July 2022 and July 2023. In addition, 750 pubs are expected to close in the first half of 2024 alone.  

Manchester's Finest campaign video

Simon Wood is fearful for the industry: ‘It’s not even worry, it’s absolute dread that one day you’re going to wake up and go, I can’t make it work’.  

‘We’re not asking to be given money,' he adds, 'we’re asking to retain some of what can make us survive.’ 

Sacha Lord concludes: ‘It’s simple. Reducing VAT will undoubtedly save businesses and save jobs [...] that’s the one simple mechanism that can save the industry.’ 

A petition was launched on Change.org in November 2023 to lower VAT to 10% for the hospitality industry. The petition, written by Bournemouth-based restaurateur Andy Lennox, states that ‘the hospitality industry is not asking for special treatment but rather a fair playing field. A reduction in VAT to 10% would provide much-needed relief and help level the playing field with supermarkets and online sales which often benefit from lower tax rates as well as giving us parity with Europe.  

‘It would also be a tax reduction which would be replaced with increased corporation tax returns, so in the long term it would be beneficial to the treasury.’ 

Indeed, VAT rates in the UK are one of the highest in the world. Much of Europe is no more than 10%, while in France VAT is 5.5%. The US doesn’t have VAT at all, just local sales taxes of 2-7%.  

The campaign is backed by UKHospitality which is urging people to contact their MPs to raise support for the campaign.  

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