Ireland never had, at least outside of the main urban centres, an enduring, celebratory restaurant culture comparable to other European countries.
There are many reasons for this but one historical one — poor food and unacceptably low standards — hardly applies any longer.
Consumer expectations have risen dramatically and most restaurants, at least those that hope to stay in business, meet those ambitions. A good number outstrip them spectacularly.
The sector has been, like many others, hit hard by the pandemic and measures to rejuvenate it are underway. The Restaurant Association of Ireland has asked for supports worth €1.8bn.
The RAI wants the State-subsidised wage scheme extended beyond August, zero Vat until the end of 2021 and between 25% and 100% of restaurants’ rent covered for an unstated period.
The RAI, naturally, does not offer an estimate of how much those measures might cost if they were extended to other hard-pressed sectors.
This, unfortunately, suggests a lack of awareness about what might or might not be possible no matter how supportive Government might wish to be.
Those expectations will not be fully realised. Yet, we can all help and have a good time doing it. By booking a table at a restaurant, especially one that celebrates local produce, we can try in a modest way to begin the long journey toward recovery for the sector.
Supportive customers and a realistic package will, hopefully, kickstart the country’s restaurants.