A war of the wages could be set to unfold in pubs as staff, both senior and those on the front line, come forward with gripes about pay. This, at a time when the sector is in dire need to recruit and maintain talent, could prove dangerous.
What can you expect to be paid?
- Low: £14,600
- Average: £16,600
- High: £19,400
- Low: £19,000
- Average: £21,000
- High: £23,000
- Low: £23,000
- Average: £25,000
- High: £27,000
- Low: £17,000
- Average: £19,000
- High: £22,500
- Low: £23,000
- Average: £27,000
- High: £32,500
Front of house:
- Low: £17,000
- Average: £21,000
- High: £25,000
*Salaries defined by research across all hospitality job functions posted on MA Jobs and other online listings totalling 1,351 roles on 20 February 2018 before an average salary was taken
Pulling pints for a living or cooking in a pub kitchen may, to some, sound like unsatisfactory jobs that require no skills or offer few opportunities. That, however, is poppycock. Anyone who knows the trade as intimately as The Morning Advertiser (MA) does will see it is a sector filled with talented, creative and intelligent people, who are passionate about what they do.
Despite a significant reduction in the number of pubs from just short of 61,000 in 2000 to about 50,000 in 2016, there are 10% more people working in the trade now than five years ago, yet 5% fewer than 10 years ago. Though pubs are fewer in numbers, and staffing is up, Office For National Statistics (ONS) figures recently showed 4.5% of all jobs in the food and accommodation sector are vacant – higher than the national average of 4.3%, which is at a 40-year low.
There are close to 600,000 people working in UK pubs, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). Research from Catton Hospitality last year showed the majority of pub workers were paid 90p more an hour than the national living wage, while the latest figures from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) claim the average hourly rate for pub sector workers is £8.85. The same figures, however, show bar staff can expect an average hourly wage of £7.43 and servers £7.41.
The national living wage – for those aged 25 and over – is currently £7.50 an hour, but set to rise to £7.83 this April. Those aged 21 to 24 are to be paid no less than the national minimum wage of £7.05 (£7.38 in April) an hour and those 18 to 20 £5.60 (£5.90 in April). The real living wage, which is the rate of pay needed to afford ‘a good life’, is £8.75 an hour across the UK and £10.20 in London, according to the Government.
The average overall salary given by the ALMR is 10p higher than the Government’s recommended real living wage. However, the average salary for those at the bottom of the rung is £1.34 an hour lower.
An MA Jobs investigation, which looked at the average pay for multiple roles in hospitality, revealed bar staff can, on average, expect to be paid £16,622 a year and bar supervisors £21,000, while managers could expect £25,000 a year. Chefs can earn an average of £19,000 annually, head chefs £27,000 and front-of-house staff £21,000. Just one of the roles comes close to the national UK average salary of £27,200, as defined by the ONS last year.
Typically, according to the same statistics, bar staff, chefs, waiters and bar managers were earning an average salary of between £7,000 and £20,000 in 2016, according to the ONS research, which looked at the salaries of 21m UK workers. Office employment, working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, can be achieved with no official qualifications and comes with a salary of around £21,000 or above.
Average pub salaries
Average salaries paid to pub staff have increased by 27% in the past 10 years, compared with 18% for the whole economy, according to ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls, who believes a career in the pub trade can be just as prosperous as in any other profession.
“As with any other sector of comparable size, the amount staff are paid varies and, naturally, junior members of staff will earn less than their more senior counterparts,” she says. “The ALMR has not seen any widespread misuse of pay or failure to pay national minimum and living wage rates, so even the most junior members of staff will not be earning less than they are entitled too.”
Though Nicholls stresses pay in the sector is about right, those working at the coalface have different views. One deputy manager, who works for a large national pubco, and asked not to be named, told MA: “I absolutely do not get paid enough for what I do. Most pubs pay minimum wage and try to hire younger people so they don’t have to pay them a higher wage.”
Where in the UK do pub staff work?
Total pub workers: 577,593
- North-east: 19,098
- North-west: 72,598
- East Midlands: 34,649
- West Midlands: 50,204
- London: 55,639
- South-east: 93,276
- South-west: 60,306
- Yorkshire: 55,374
- East Yorkshire: 60,932
- Other: 75,517
*Data supplied by the British Beer and Pub Association
On the surface, salaries and hourly rates look near healthy, but bar staff say otherwise. Long unsociable hours, difficult working conditions as well as the odd lairy punter to deal with, make it a challenging and an often poorly rewarded job. “I’m on under £22,000 and have worked for the company for a long time and have a lot of knowledge about the pub,” the deputy manager adds. “I recently found out I was training someone who is on a higher salary than me, which was frustrating.”
Another bar manager, who works for a small independent pub chain and also asked not to be named, says pub work is rewarding but, despite promotions, wages do not increase enough and are tough to live on, even when working outside London.
“Wages seem to differ a lot from company to company, depending on the size of the business,” she says. “Chains obviously have a more structured pay scale and can afford to pay their staff slightly better, but independent bars seem to struggle to give their staff a more formalised and consistent pay rate.”
The manager does not believe bar staff are paid fairly, but concedes there are no formal qualifications needed, which relates to the rate of pay. “But we work long, hard hours and often during very unsociable times of the day,” she adds.
Pubs can be a viable career for someone willing to put in the work and the hours, though management and other senior positions with good pay are “few and far between”, she says.
“As a bar manager in my mid-20s, I feel that I earn a lot less than my friends in various other fields that also require minimal or no qualifications. I have worked hard to build my knowledge of my trade and have garnered an impressive management CV for my age,” she continues.
“My wage has increased only marginally, even though I have received multiple promotions. I definitely would not be able to support a family on the wage that I currently receive.”
Most pubs, whether independent or part of a chain, may want to pay their staff more, yet salaries are a significant outgoing, as BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds points out: “It is important that people are paid a fair wage and labour costs in pubs can make up more than 25% of turnover, so our sector is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in labour costs.”
‘High excise duty’
Simmonds continues: “Pubs also face major cost pressures in terms of high levels of excise duty and a disproportionate business rates burden.”
Working conditions, too, are a contributor to low retention rates in the sector, says MA Jobs recruitment manager Charlotte Monkhouse. “The hospitality industry sadly sees one of the worst retention rates,” she adds. “It’s a very demanding industry and often requires long hours, late nights and unpaid overtime.”
Worse yet, pub kitchens are being hit hard with a whopping 11,000 chefs needed in the sector by 2022. But up to 70-hour weeks for relatively little pay is stopping talent getting on board. “In my eight years working in hospitality recruitment, I haven’t seen an improvement or change in the chef recruitment crisis,” says Monkhouse. “Chefs are highly sought-after and unless they are being paid above average and are offered unique benefits, their loyalty to one employer can’t be guaranteed.”
Though the trade is short on chefs, there is a real worry every other job function in the pub could become dramatically under resourced, with Brexit posing a potential threat to the 450,000 mainland Europeans working in British hospitality.
As suggested by Monkhouse, offering attractive reward schemes to lower paid employees could help attract new recruits from closer to home, and maintain existing talent, says Charles Cotton, who is a senior performance and reward adviser at people development firm CIPD. “While salaries are significant for current and potential employees, it’s not the only thing they are looking for,” he explains.
“The ability to work flexibly can be important to those with family or personal commitments such as childcare or studying. Similarly, an important factor for keeping staff is how attractive they find the work environment – this can include everything from the physical condition of the pub to the relationships they have with their line manager, colleagues and customers.” Cotton suggests tying staff into performance reward schemes that link pub profitability and customer feedback with remuneration. “To keep staff, you need to give them a sense of achievement,” he adds.
Few workers in any profession are likely to say they are happy with their salaries, but pub workers are coming forward thick and fast with gripes about the pay they receive, considering the hours they work and the tasks they carry out. There are, though, many companies offering competitive packages and reward schemes, who do employ happy staff.
In reality, the trade can only offer what it can afford, but it must be asked if more can be done to give a ‘real’ wage to those who are the foundation of an industry that defines Britain.
“The sector is a large one, encompassing a wide variety of businesses and roles within those sectors,” adds Nicholls. “Working in a pub or for a pub company can mean working in jobs as varied as chef, manager, marketing, finance, legal, PR or as a sommelier. This is one of the great strengths of the sector.”