The Restaurants Association of Ireland has said an average of one restaurant a week is closing its doors due to the rising cost of doing business, including the increase in VAT at the start of the year. 

At its 48th annual conference at The Europe Hotel in Killarney, the association called for changes in Government policy to ensure that restaurants can stay viable. 

The RAI also called for the introduction of tax incentives to allow restaurant owners to provide short term accommodation for staff. 

It said this would allow employees breathing space to find new accommodation when relocating for work, which is critical given the lack of housing in Ireland now.

The CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said the year ahead is going to be challenging for the hospitality industry. 

"We are disappointed that this Government are not doing more to support one of the largest industries in the country. In 2017, tourism expenditure accounted for €8.8 billion, and accounted for almost 4% of all tax revenue," Mr Cummins stated. 

"Yet, with the increase in VAT, the shortage of skilled chefs and rising costs of doing business, many restaurants are struggling to keep their doors open. 

"The Government needs to show it values the tourism industry by reducing the VAT rate to 11%, put more resources towards processing chef permits and bring in tax incentives for employee accommodation," he added.