Restaurants grapple with staff shortages amid COVID pandemic and Brexit
Britain’s hospitality industry is grappling with staff shortages when it reopens, forcing pubs and restaurants to offer sweeteners to attract workers.
Last month, job openings in parts of the hospitality industry rose 20% from pre-pandemic levels. Jack Kennedy, UK economist on the job website Indeed, said: “In some areas the number of applicants is not keeping pace.”
British pubs and restaurants have blamed both the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit for the shortage of staff in the industry. The problem has become particularly acute since the resumption of indoor dining last week as part of the UK roadmap’s next step outside the lockdown.
If the staff shortage persists, the jobs crisis could derail the recovery of the hotel sector after the pandemic. The industry is now urging the government to relax immigration rules to allow low-skilled workers from overseas to work in bars and restaurants across the country.
Helen Stephenson, owner of Keddleston Country Club in Derbyshire, told Yahoo Finance UK people were moving away from hospitality jobs after the lockdown.
“Recruiting new employees has been extremely difficult for us,” she said. “I think people are afraid of being addicted to the hospitality industry because of the uncertainty of its future.”
Stephenson said she has struggled to recruit staff with relevant experience. The vast majority of responses to its vacancies come from school-aged teenagers who “don’t have the experience or the flexibility to work more than weekends.”
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“For more attentive positions, like working alongside our chef, we have been involved with Derby College which helps us find apprentices who want to learn the trade,” she said. “Unfortunately, after a week of advertising we have yet to receive any nominations.”
Large national chains are also feeling the pinch. Mitchells and Butlers (MAB.L), owner of All Bar One and Harvester chains, said it was difficult to recruit workers. The company said foreign staff were returning home and the lockdown restrictions meant many employees were leaving the industry. Mitchells and Butlers has lost 9,000 of its 39,000 employees since the start of the crisis.
“Some of the people who have left the industry want to come back, but won’t do so until they are sure there isn’t a new lockdown,” Mitchell and Butler boss Phil Urban said. during a call for results. His business lost 200 million pounds last year.
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Rival pub chain Marston’s (MARS.L) has reported similar difficulties with recruitment and Pizza Express is currently looking for 1,000 employees, having laid off thousands less than a year ago.
“Everyone’s recruiting,” Urban said. “I am still optimistic that we will be covered and develop our own talent where we are short, but these macro factors are in play for now.”
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The most obvious macro factor is Brexit. Before Britain left the EU, over 30% of UK hotel workers were Europeans. In London, the proportion was over half. Brexit and the pandemic have caused many of these workers to return to their home countries.
“It’s been pretty hard to find people since Brexit, and now COVID,” Armonas, restaurant manager at Mediterranean chain Haz in London, told Yahoo Finance UK. “This mainly includes wait staff, bar staff and some managerial positions.” (Armonas only gave his first name.)
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UKHospitality, told the Sunday Times it was time for the government to revisit its list of “shortage occupations”.
“We also suggested an Australian-style coronavirus recovery visa for low-skilled workers who do not adhere to the points system. [but] that are critical to recovery, ”she said.
Some companies have used incentives to tackle the shortage. Examples include bonuses or gift certificates for staff who recommend friends for jobs.
Steak chain Hawksmoor has told its employees they could earn up to £ 2,000 ($ 2,830) if they recruit friends to work at the chain’s eight restaurants. The Caravan Cafe offers a £ 100 voucher to customers who make successful referrals.
James Reed, founder of recruiting firm Reed, said the employment pendulum has returned in favor of workers.
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