The Independent Hospitality Alliance (IHA)

Independent Hospitality Alliance (IHA)

The Independent Hospitality Alliance (IHA) is a group of eight trade associations who have banded together to represent small and micro sized businesses (SMBs) within the independent hospitality sector.

Specifically representing independent businesses, no big chains or corporate groups, the IHA was formed after discussions between NCASS, the National Federation of Fish Fryers (NFFF) and others to ensure effective representation of SMBs at government level.

The IHA is made up of NCASS, the NFFF, the Kebab Alliance, Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association, Curry Life, Caribbean Food Collective and the Food Service Packaging Association. Membership with any of these trade associations includes membership of the IHA, ensuring that the unique needs of all SMBs within the independent hospitality industry are represented.

After extensive work with the former Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) during covid, it became clear – as many NCASS members will attest – that smaller businesses within the sector were not being adequately supported by government. Whilst large chains have the extensive finances and resources to represent themselves at government level, SMBs do not have comparable representation. As such, the IHA seeks to represent the independent hospitality sector, demonstrating that it is a unique sector with idiosyncratic strengths, motivations and challenges compared to corporate hospitality. The problems faced by independent hospitality businesses are not the same as those faced by corporate businesses yet the two are often grouped together. Therefore, through effective representation at government level, the IHA aims to highlight the challenges that are unique to the sector and that need addressing in order for SMBs to survive the current challenges and grow.

One key way in which the IHA seeks to do this is by creating a more direct route to communicate with government for small businesses. By building these connections, the IHA will be able to create strong working relationships with civil servants and government ministers such as MP Kevin Hollinrake, the minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, in order to make the case for NCASS members directly.  Small businesses can be unfairly viewed as expendable or even replaceable whilst bigger businesses are viewed as a ‘safer’ bet and easier to communicate with. The IHA seeks to change this narrative, reaffirming that SMBs within the independent hospitality sector are innovative enterprises with the potential to revitalise and reignite local economies and communities. In doing so, the IHA will provide the government with the necessary resources, such as key data and case studies, to make informed decisions that reflect the needs of SMBs. This will help the industry to access the support it needs and to ensure that future regulations and taxations are fit for purpose.

The independent hospitality industry faces a multitude of difficulties which need to be brought to government attention in order to enact effective change. These challenges, such as the cost-of-operating and staffing shortages amongst many others, are often only enhanced by blanket legislation that only considers the capacity of large chains, thereby disproportionately impacting smaller businesses. Subsequently, the IHA seeks to introduce ‘breathing space’ in which any new legislation that may impact members is first implemented on corporate businesses. After a one to two year grace period, during which time the efficacy and plausibility of this legislation will have been thoroughly tested, the legislation would then be implemented on SMBs. Through this approach, the IHA seeks to avoid bombarding small independent businesses with legislation that may prove excessively costly for them.

Independent hospitality businesses across the country provide great value for their communities and local economies. They bring vitality to high streets and town centres, create jobs and invest in the community. Independent businesses are wealth creators and generators, and they drive the industry forward through measured risk-taking and innovation. These businesses not only shape the economy, they bolster local communities and it is vital that their voices are heard and their needs met.

Speaking on behalf of the IHA’s inception, NCASS Stakeholder Director Mark Laurie commented:

‘The IHA is about raising the profile and recognition of small independent businesses and what they can bring to the table. When people spend money at a small local business it supports the area and adds to the character of that area. These businesses energise the high streets and other local businesses. Independent hospitality is a destination in and of itself, not just a pit stop half an hour before your film starts like some chains. These are the businesses that people travel to and make memories with; they need to be supported.’

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