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ACROSS Retail Realestate Magazine

Brexit and “Brand Britain”

On June 23, 2016, the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union. More than 30 million people voted, with a much higher than expected turn out, especially in the younger voters.


The “leave” campaign won, 52% to 48% and we are now on a journey, without much of a map, for the next few years as Britain navigates through the exit from the European Union. We have also got a new “captain of the ship”, or Prime Minister – Theresa May. The former home secretary took over from David Cameron, who resigned on the day after losing the referendum. I was fortunate to have lived in the constituency of Theresa May for many years, in Maidenhead, and have met her on many occasions. She once gave our old business, “Coverpoint”, an award for exporting our knowledge and services outside the UK. A very proud moment for our little consultancy, but also a glimpse into the person that would become Prime Minister. Whatever politics you follow, it was clear that her “no nonsense” direct approach was going to work well in British politics. It clearly has.

Like Mr. Cameron, Mrs. May was against Britain leaving the EU but she says she will respect the will of the people. She has said “Brexit means Brexit”. There is still a lot of debate here about what that will mean in practice especially on the two key issues of how British businesses transact in the European Union and what restrictions are brought in to limit the rights of European Union nationals to live and work in the UK.

Weathered the initial shock

The first reactions of many were not good. However, the UK economy appears to have weathered the initial shock of the Brexit vote, although the value of the pound remains near a 30-year low. Opinion is sharply divided over the long-term effects of leaving the EU and it crystalizes the lack of knowledge, or experience, of an event like this in the past. Britain has also lost its top AAA credit rating, meaning the cost of government borrowing will be higher, but share prices have recovered from a dramatic slump in value, post vote, with both the FTSE 100 and the broader FTSE 250 index, which includes more British-based businesses, now trading higher than before the referendum.

Looking ahead, it is quite clear there will continue to be “ripple effects” of the Brexit referendum result and volatility in some markets which will impact the rest of this year, particularly in the UK. At JLL, we continue to offer our clients the quality of advice they need to navigate what is happening after the vote. Now that we are part of a global organization, with global clients and relationships, it is fascinating to see how the wider JLL business has continued to support and deliver outstanding advice to our clients. In many ways Brexit has been a catalyst. Teams from across the JLL globe are working together across business lines and borders and we are successfully supporting our clients, with confident, quality advice.

Brexit has been a shock and the foodservice industry, like the wider economy, is struggling to understand what the impacts might be. The immediate short-term “doom and gloom” predictions were inevitable, but a good summer and the Olympics in Rio, have ensured that money continues to flow into the restaurant and bar businesses throughout the country.

For many of us who have worked in the industry for years, we are wondering what will happen if the flow of excellent staff, from the EU, is limited. Most restaurants and bars now have a multi-national work force and this is across all quality levels. It is not limited to pizza joints and bars, and a recent meal in one of the finest restaurants in London, resulted in me compiling, with the Maître D, a list of 17 nationalities happily working together in one kitchen and restaurant. There is hope for us all still, in my view, as the commercial need to work together, like a good restaurant, will ensure that Brexit will be a success for all. We need each other.

All going to eat and drink

Last week also saw another anniversary for me. It was 40 years to the day that I started working in the foodservice industry officially. On Sunday, August 1, 1976, I started working as a “bottle boy” in a pub in Carrington, Nottingham, sorting out the used bottles that had been dumped in huge plastic trolleys and returning them to the right crates, ready for the return to the brewery, when the newly filled ones were delivered. It was dirty, very smelly and quite hazardous, but it was my first introduction to the world of foodservice. I also remember it, even now, as the day that Nikki Lauda had his terrible crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, during which his Ferrari burst into flames. He survived and went on to do many things, including racing six weeks later in the Italian Grand Prix.

And so, in many ways, I am hopeful and confident about the future. “Brand Britain” is strong at the moment and another impressive set of medals from Rio has given us something to be very proud of. I have no doubt that our outstanding Paralympians will do the same, and by the time you read this the world will know. We are all going to continue to eat and drink, and travel, and enjoy each other’s cultures, capital cities and cuisines in the way tourists have for many years. The recent weakening of the pound has seen unprecedented tourism interest in London and the UK, making us just that little bit more attractive than we were before. We are going to continue to do business we our EU colleague countries because we need each other, as exporter and importer, consumer and provider.

Our business, JLL Foodservice Consulting, saw a huge increase in business in August and that seems to be continuing strongly into September. Clients like the fact we are part of a global organization and we have seen a big increase in the collaboration across different services and geographies of JLL as we continue to support and guide our clients in a “post Brexit” world. Now is a very good time to be part of JLL, a worldwide business.


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