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Hospitality vacancies hit a peak in the UK

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A combination of Brexit and the Covid pandemic is being blamed for an urgent crisis in hospitality staffing, reports Tina Nielsen

Hospitality in the UK recorded the highest number of weekly vacancies in the first week of May since January 2020, according to a survey by Broadbean Technology.

And a recent survey from UK Hospitality, the trade association representing the sector, found thousands of vacancies in the industry. The vast majority (80%) reported vacancies for front-of-house roles, such as waiting and bar staff, and 85% are in need of chefs. Nearly half have housekeeping vacancies and 43% are looking for assistant or general managers. The survey suggested a current vacancy rate across the sector of 9% – implying a shortage of 188,000 workers.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016 was felt throughout hospitality. A large migrant population – many from EU countries –  in the sector meant that Brexit would always have an impact. Those who remained after Brexit were forced to reconsider their options when the pandemic hit the UK last year and restaurants, bars and hotels had to close in consecutive lockdowns.

This perfect storm has caused a genuine crisis in hospitality as employers struggle to fill their staff rota.

Tough decisions

In recent days London’s Le Gavroche, the French restaurant owned by chef Michel Roux Junior and the holder of two Michelin stars, will cease to serve its famous set menu, fixed price lunch. Roux shared the news in an Instagram post.

“Since opening, restaurants up and down the country have suffered greatly with staffing problems partly due to new Brexit regulations as well as there now being a major lack of well-trained hospitality professionals since the pandemic struck. While we have been working our hardest to resolve this issue over the last couple of months, Le Gavroche is sadly understaffed for the time being,” he said.

“The alternative at this point would be to essentially overwork our existing staff which we are not prepared to do as I’m sure you can understand. Our staff wellbeing is of utmost importance to us both mentally and physically and we work hard each and every service to ensure our standards are at the absolute highest of culinary excellence.”

Promoting hospitality careers

UK Hospitality recently announced a partnership with the government’s Department for Work and Pensions in an effort to promote the many career paths in hospitality.

“We’re delighted to be working with the Government to restore confidence in a sector which is a stable employer for millions of skilled and unskilled workers across a wide range of diverse roles, and which can play a constructive role in tackling unemployment,” said CEO Kate Nicholls.

“Prior to Covid, the hospitality industry employed 3.2m people in the UK, making it the third largest private sector employer in the UK. The government can help to restore confidence in the sector so once again it seen as a dynamic sector of growth, and a provider of fulfilling careers that will help power the UK’s economic and social recovery.”

Tina Nielsen