THE restaurant trade is notorious for paying low wages, but one business determined to buck the trend is The Pier Café at Loch Katrine.

Blessed with a stunning location at Stronachlachar, the new owners are attempting to make working conditions as good as the views by paying the real living wage.

Brian Graham and Ciaran Devlin took over in March 2017 and even though their first year has been far from easy, their commitment to fair pay has not wavered.

Graham, whose background is social work, wanted to become a Scottish Living Wage Accredited employer from the outset, although Devlin was more wary about signing up so soon.

“It was the basis of much discussion over a glass of wine but as employers we want to do it right,” said Graham.

“We believe people should be paid a fair wage and we are proud of being living wage employers.”

The pair are committed to buying locally wherever possible with their bread coming from Callander, butcher meat from Aberfoyle, and buffalo meat for their buffalo burgers coming from a farm near Kirkcaldy.

Their policy is also to employ local people – which Graham says is not easy in such a rural area.

“I had hoped that paying the living wage would help attract staff but I am not sure that’s been the case,” said Graham, who agrees that the café’s isolated location could also be a factor.

“There are only 12, mostly retired, people in this village and Aberfoyle is 40 minutes away by car,” he pointed out.

Custom during the day is mainly from the morning call from the Sir Walter Scott steamship and cyclists enjoying the beautiful ride round Loch Katrine.

However business last summer was hit by the poor weather, which has affected staffing levels at the café.

“We took advice from the previous owners about the level of staffing and to begin with employed six full time. But after last summer’s rubbish weather we could not continue with that level,” said Graham. “Now there are five including ourselves.

“We’ve also changed the style of café so we are open in the evenings from Friday to Sunday to give local people and visitors another eating option. That has made up a bit for the difficult days.”

However even though the pair have adapted, Graham believes there should be more of an incentive for businesses that do sign up for living wage accreditation.

“The reason I wanted to pay a living wage was more because of my politics and belief that people should be paid a fair wage, but I have to say that it is difficult for small businesses like ours to sustain it,” he said.

“I’m not going to hide from the fact that it is a real challenge. We are not going to withdraw from the scheme but we feel there should be more incentives for employers to pay the living wage. Local enterprise organisations and local authorities could do a bit more to publicise living wage employers. I think there could be some free advertising or that kind of thing to help increase our business.”

It would also help if conditions on the only road to the café, the single track B road from Aberfoyle, were improved, according to Graham, but despite all the challenges he has no regrets about his change of career.

“We do love it – it’s a great location and if we ever get fed up we just look out the window,” he said.