We're missing out on what should be a busy, lucrative business because we can't find staff, says James Allcock

The  Staff Canteen

The Pig and Whistle has been bustling since it reopened after the successive lockdowns of the past two years, but doesn’t have the staff to keep up with demand

Posting online last week, chef owner of the Beverley bistro James Allcock laid out some of the changes he is making in the coming weeks to adapt to the staffing issues they are facing: they now only taking bookings every hour on certain days, and when the front of house is really lacking, they run a single-sitting set dinner and close the outdoor eating areas.

“It was less about a call to action for recruitment," he said in an interview with The Staff Canteen, "and more about a proper honest hands in the air about the next six weeks - because pretty much for the next six weekends, there's something that's going to be different about The Pig and Whistle.”

Why?

Ever since the last restrictions on hospitality were lifted, James' bistro has been bustling, but he can't find enough staff to keep up with demand.

Not only that, but “if we find someone we can't keep them. It's just an absolute nightmare,” he explained.

Having an attentive audience on social media has meant that the chef has recruited some new chefs, but all have been new starters in the industry - young part-timers, who, having missed out on fun for the past two years, aren't willing to sacrifice their weekends.

"I can't blame them," he said, "but it's no use to me - I take 70 percent of my business on a Saturday night.”

James has been advertising for a full-time front of house position since they reopened post-pandemic, but they just haven’t been able to find anyone.

“It's filling that key role that we're finding really challenging and just the general challenge of an 18-month recruitment cycle, or less,” exacerbated by successive lockdowns, during which his part-timers have upped and left.

Front of house not kitchen

Luckily, James' kitchen doesn't take much staffing, meaning he has avoided some of the hiring issues faced by many of his peers in the industry.

"Because I'm the chef, I'm the owner, and I work with someone else who gives me a hand. It's not something I'm saying doesn't exist in Beverley because it does. But it's something that I've swerved.”

Before the pandemic, The Pig and Whistle had been open for just over two years and in that time, “employed 21 people for eight jobs.” However, currently, he is on “employee number 65 and we only employ eight. It's absolutely ridiculous; we've literally got a new team every 10 minutes.”

Adapting to survive

Because of all the hiring difficulties, James has had to change the way he runs The Pig and Whistle just to keep the doors open.

"I'm having to adapt but I'm also having to turn stuff down and not push my business forward. We're busy, we've got loads of demand for what we're doing,” but he is unable to capitalise on it, because he can’t be sure he’ll have the staff to stay on top of things.

For example, some evenings are now single sitting, set dinner, "because I don't actually have enough staff to do a normal service." On other nights, he is only taking bookings on the hour, "because I can't deal with people coming into the business every half an hour."

"There are weekends where I've closed the outside terrace even though it's going to be the middle of spring and a heatwave because I can't deal with taking bookings in another area to manage.”

While having less staff means he has fewer outgoings, the restrictions he is having to place on his business don't make up for the lost income. To James, it feels like he's being forced to scale back at a time when they should be driving forwards. 

This is where the irony lies, he said. "We've got a miles better business than when we closed in March 2020."

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th May 2022

We're missing out on what should be a busy, lucrative business because we can't find staff, says James Allcock