'The issue now is everyone, no matter what the industry, is looking for staff so all businesses are suffering'

The Staff Canteen

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics have shown that staffing shortages in hospitality are at a record high, with the industry experiencing 83% more vacancies than pre-pandemic in 2019

These results are despite the fact that the sector has created almost 300,000 new jobs in the last 12 months, which is almost one in three of all the new jobs being created in the UK since the pandemic - but those who work in hospitality are rightly questioning, 'are they new jobs or are they a result of a mass exodus of staff?'.

According to the ONS figures, the hospitality industry has 174,000 jobs available, which is a record high, in a climate where those that are economically inactive and want a job has fallen by about 130,000 over the same period.

Results from polling our members at The Staff Canteen showed that 94.9 percent of respondents said that they had vacancies within their businesses, matching the other results released.

The figures highlight how, despite the improving post-pandemic performance, the sector's recovery is being thwarted by a staffing shortage, an issue which is not new mand has plagued the industry for years.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “These figures show that the hospitality industry continues to return to growth and is attracting new people into the workforce. However, high vacancy rates are impeding our ability to trade. This is particularly concerning as we enter the summer, a key trading period for much of the sector."

"Last month, UKHospitality launched its Workforce Strategy in order to tackle this, and we have set out a coherent plan to solve some of the issues, including working with colleges and universities to attract students into work this summer and demonstrating how flexible working will provide opportunities for carers – but we need government support. The points-based system needs to be tweaked to make it easier for seasonal and lower-skilled workers to enter the workforce, and the apprenticeship levy should be freed-up to help us attract the workforce we need to recover and grow.”

What the Public thinks

We asked our social media followers what their thoughts were on vacancies, the reason behind them and their own experiences in the current climate. Many respondents spoke of the work-life balance issue that the industry is known for plus wages, as key causes of a lack of uptake. Worryingly it seems 'the industry is in freefall' and most employers are aware of the causes but are unable to find a solution. 

Todd Fischer said: "It’s easy to see that being overworked and underpaid is the main issue with the industry, the whole “it’s the love and passion for the job” mentality hopefully will change cos I can’t pay my mortgage with them and for the amount put in you don’t get enough back."

In a similar vein, Darryl Quested added: "Until shorter days, 4 day weeks or much higher wages are standard then the industry will continue to suffer. I don't think anyone wants to be working over double standard working hours for the same wage anymore. Lockdown gave us all a taste of what it's like to actually be present in life and understandably many have left the industry to continue to enjoy that."

However, not everyone agreed with them with some blaming businesses' actions during lockdown leading to many people finding new jobs after being let go. Such as Rosario Gullotta, who said: "During lockdown, many companies made everyone redundant. To conclude, they are still offering zero-hour contracts, split shifts, and in many places, everyone has to do KP."

Many others also blamed Brexit for the reason staffing was falling so short with Emma Brett saying: "It's not just covid, Brexit has a huge part to play in this.

"When you run a small family company it's not all 13-hour shifts, gruelling work, etc. The British public and tourists cannot do without our industry and, in fact, this industry is a great career path to bigger and better things. We have earned a very unfairly bad press for bad pay, long hours, etc but it's not always the case especially if you work for an independent company rather than a chain. The issue now is everyone, no matter what the industry, is looking for staff so all businesses are suffering."

Colm James Gummoe added: "The industry is terrible for family life, if your a single young guy or girl then it’s fine, but unfortunately cooking someone’s dinner isn’t as important as a family or work life balance, I’m sorry but working for passion doesn’t cut it. Especially when you aren’t appreciated, so I can completely understand why no one wants to do it, it’s the reason I left after 10 years."

Front of House is suffering too

The Staff Canteen regularly hears that it's not just the kitchen which is understaffed, many restaurants are finding Front of House equally challenging, resulting in chefs taking on a more public facing role and delivering the food to tables in a bid to fill the hole.

Kerry Dow said:  "We have a full time FOH position been advertised for 4 months! Spent £75 on indeed for 1 applicant who didn’t show for interview. We are small but not sure how much longer we can do it on our own."

Dan SanJuan says: "Trying to fill SKILLED roles with a temporary, unskilled and transient workforce will only prolong the issue. If there are 30 items on the food menu , 30 on the drinks and 20 wines all that have at least 5 ingredients or info about them....that's 400 pieces of information that a single server needs to recite at a moments notice, multiple times and whilst time managing a section of 10 tables plus..... get a layman off the street and throw them into that scenario as an UNSKILLED min wage worker, and they'd sink EVERYTIME all the time. (And let's not hide behind the merit of tips, if a doctor was on 20k basic with OTE based on their success rate would you want them operating on your kid before you tip them?) Fair days pay for a fair days work! Keep your tips, give me £15-20ph hour and I'll do the graft all day every day with a smile on my face and give amazing service.

He added: "Whilst I’m here, the solution is NOT looking to raise £5m for a campaign and openly shitting on the retail and warehouse sector as your number 1 priority. As if hospitality workers haven’t had enough of “when are you getting a real job?” Are we not better than that?"

Can it be fixed?

The million-dollar question is, can the hospitality industry become the pioneer for work life balance and career longevity so many desperately want it to be? A huge percentage of those who work within the sector passionately care about what they do and making things better for everyone in the industry already and those coming into it. It's clear from our audience there is no quick fix, but there is a hunger to find a solution - if there is one industry which can adapt and overcome it is this one.

In these challenging times…

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th June 2022

'The issue now is everyone, no matter what the industry, is looking for staff so all businesses are suffering'