A survey of hundreds of BigHospitality readers saw 53% place the status of the 700,000 EU staff working in restaurants, pubs and hotels in their top three concerns.
Business rates were ranked the second most crucial issue (49%), followed by changes to the Minimum Wage (48%).
Just 20% placed the rights of non-EU workers among their biggest worries, despite warnings that the UK curry industry could ‘disappear within ten years’ if there are no changes to tough immigration restrictions on Asian chefs.
Hard or soft Brexit?
Unsurprisingly, the UK’s upcoming exit form the EU proved divisive, with many voters fearful of a ‘hard’ Brexit led by Theresa May.
“Hard Brexit and tougher immigration laws could lead to an even further shortage of staff in hospitality,” said one respondent.
“We are already receiving fewer job applications from EU workers due to the Brexit process,” said another.
“I am a lifelong Conservative voter however have reluctantly had to change my support this year, as a Conservative victory and hard, extreme Brexit would be disastrous for the industry,” wrote one.
Respondents were also concerned that prices of EU products, such as French wine, would increase while the pool of labour would shrink.
Wages and tax
However, many commenters were fearful that Labour’s plans to raise corporation tax from 19% to 26%, and the Minimum Wage to £10, would leave businesses struggling.
“Half our kitchen staff are EU nationals and I believe Labour will guarantee their rights,” said one respondent.
“[But the] £10 min wage is a big one, we will need to adjust. How much of this rise in wages will the customer be able to absorb? If not much then hours will be cut and quality will suffer overall.”
Others said they would be shutting up shop if Jeremy Corbyn entered Downing Street.
“Corbyn = total disaster,” said one. “I have a really good business at present, but if he gets in I will be looking to sell and retire".
Other comments included, "If Corbyn gets in, I’m wrapping it up", and "A Labour government would destroy my business".
“The Conservatives are the party that has the best interests of companies at heart,” said another.
Many respondents said the outcome of Brexit was a bigger concern than who was in Downing Street.
“We will sell the business whoever wins as it is impossible to make a reasonable living as an independent restaurant,” one wrote.
Another added: “Brexit negotiations will have a bigger impact than the election.”
The ongoing battle for VAT reform was also a big concern for voters, with 45% citing it as one of the top three concerns. The issue is not mentioned in any of the major party’s manifestos, even though the Liberal Democrats back a cut in 2015.
Despite many expressing concern over a 'hard' Brexit, the majority of the hospitality voters look set to support Theresa May on 8 June.
BigHospitality's survey found 46% were backing the Conservatives, 34% Labour and 11% Liberal Democrats.
The remaining vote was split between the Greens (2.6%), the Scottish National Party (1%), Plaid Cymru (0.4%), UKIP (0.4%), and no one/other (4.6%).
Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey.
Charts created by Hannah Thompson via Infogr.am