Restaurateurs in Ireland are calling on the government to take urgent action for the struggling restaurant sector to survive. The Restaurant Association of Ireland last year warned that one restaurant per day was closing in the country, and that 80% of its restaurants were running at a loss. Now, in a submission to the Minister of Finance for the 2011 budget, the group has called on the government to introduce a number of measures, which it said are crucial to set the sector on the road to recovery. These include amongst others: • The abolition of Sunday Premium Payments which is forcing restaurants to close on Sundays • The abolition of the “anti-business” Joint Labour Committees • Extending the 13.5 per cent VAT rate to apply to all ‘meals’ served in a restaurant (price reduction) • Allowing investment in training to be offset against employer’s PRSI • Extending re-investment incentives for the restaurant sector The group said the industry was being hit by high wage rates (second highest in Europe), high food costs (24% above the European average) and a decline in overseas visitors (20% decline in the first six months of this year). The Irish Restaurant industry employs 64,000 people (one in four tourism jobs) and contributes Eu2bn to the Irish economy each year. If current threats to the industry are allowed to continue, said the association, some 21,000 jobs could be at risk and there would be a potential €700m loss to the Irish economy. Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the association said: “Nothing has been done by government since this time last year to change this reality.”