Ross Clark Ross Clark

Are our pizzas really under threat from Brexit?

Last week it was Vince Cable trying to tell us that Brexit was depriving Wimbledon spectators of their strawberries – swiftly denied by the All England Club. This week it is the turn of pizza chain Franco Manca to try to scare us of the consequences of Brexit. Announcing the company’s results, chairman David Page said, in comments prominently reported in the pro-EU Financial Times: “The long-term Brexit impact is unknown. It is, however, already affecting the availability of skilled European restaurant staff”. In other words: your pizza is under threat from your silly vote to leave the EU.

Brexit hasn’t appeared to hit the company’s bottom line, however. Revenue of the chain’s parent company was up 41 per cent to £41.2 million. Profits were up by 170 per cent. Moreover, the firm has managed to open 13 new restaurants during the past year.

If the chain is discovering that the well of fully-trained pizza chefs isn’t quite bottomless it would hardly be surprising. You can hardly move for pizza restaurants in London. They are not all going to survive, and it is no use trying to blame Brexit when they fail.

It is the word ‘skilled’ which strikes me as interesting about Page’s remarks. Time was when restaurants would take on staff whom they would then train. Now, they seem to expect to be able to scoop up staff who have been trained at others’ expense. Why go through the tedious business of trying to teach some spotty Brit to make sourdough when you can poach an Italian who has learned his trade in the backstreets of Naples?

If Franco Manca is finding it harder to recruit staff it does, of course, have an option: spend a bit more of those profits on training.

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