Ireland is the most expensive place in Europe to run a restaurant, and restaurant owners are not happy about it.

That’s the claim the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the trade association for the Irish restaurant industry, heard at its conference this week. 

The conference was told that restaurateurs are seeing a 10 percent drop in the number of people dining out, and that diners are spending up to a fifth less than they used to. All signs point to an Irish restaurant industry crisis. 

Around 48 percent of restaurant businesses are reporting declines, the conference heard. 

As a result, the Restaurant Association is calling for the Irish Government to step in and reduce costs. 

The 500-member organization’s chief executive, Adrian Cummins, said, “Restaurants are facing challenging times ahead with the cost of doing business increasing on a weekly basis. We are calling on the Government to seriously address the issues that affect the restaurant sector. 

“Our results also show the cost of operating a restaurant is continuously increasing with Ireland now becoming the most expensive place to do business. We pay our staff one of the highest wage rates within the European hospitality sector. 

“Our food input costs are 24 percent higher than the EU average. The Irish restaurant sector cannot continue within such a regime.” 

 The Restaurant Association reports that the Irish restaurant industry employs around 64,000 and contributes €2 billion annually to the Irish economy. 

The news comes a week after a survey found that Ireland's consumption of alcohol had dropped for the first time in a decade. 

Niamh Corrigan, a 31-year-old PhD student in Dublin, said that it was noticeable that people were less prepared to fork out cash for alcohol in restaurants these days. "People are starting to drink at home a lot more right now," Corrigan said, "And definitely not in restaurants any more. They're just too expensive."