Campaigns to improve the image of the pub sector as a valid career option for teenagers had been gaining momentum before the coronavirus outbreak. However, now there are worries the trade could have to work to appeal to both those looking for part-time and full-time work and dispel safety fears.
Laura Lythall runs the Ship Inn on the Isle of Dogs, east London, and said it is a long-term worry for her.
A minority of pub employers let staff go before the furlough scheme was announced and she says these workers may opt to job hunt in another sector.
She said: “Maybe there are some good members of staff looking for somewhere to go on to when everything opens up. In the long run, as hospitality has been hit so hard, people are going to think twice about whether it’s a stable industry to go into.”
Lythall believes a way to combat this is to push what pub employment can do for people, including inclusive training and apprenticeship schemes for young people to get their foot in the door.
Health and safety concerns about visiting pubs will also be felt by those looking for jobs, Lythall adds, meaning the sector will have to assure the public its venues are safe to work in.
The operator said: “I imagine [safety] would be a big worry for people looking at people going into the industry – and even if they have been in the industry for years – pubs are a social area.
“It’s nigh-on impossible for a server to be able to maintain social distancing while placing a pint on a table.”
She continued: “That could be a very big worry for new team members, and how to combat is really trying to instil confidence in the public as well as staff in regards to all the precautions available to take.”
Chris Johnson is operations manager at the White Lion Weston, Crewe, Cheshire, and believes while recruitment will definitely be impacted, it may help employers.
He said: “Recruitment might become a bit easier in a sense because there will be a lack of competition but also [it could also be] difficult. Will people want to come into a contact industry, where it’s hands-on?”
Johnson has been running pubs for around seven years and said he has seen recruitment get “slowly worse” over that time period, with the market saturated with lots of options for potential pub staff.
Bored at home
He says: “We have seen a drift from cheap and cheerful to premium and that has caused recruitment to become a bigger thing, pubs have upped their game and have to win people over with something different and special.
“Chef-ing is a dying trade and industry in terms of people wanting to go into it. Chefs can just pick and choose and it has been getting more and more difficult to [recruit them].”
However, the licensee was optimistic about the situation at the White Lion and said he didn’t believe any of his staff felt frightened to go back to work for fear of contracting coronavirus.
Johnson said: “We operate the highest level of hygiene possible, that is just good practice and what we do.
“I don’t think anyone is particularly worried. People are just eager to get back and get cracking. They’re all bored and they want to get back to work.
“But obviously it’s how we tackle that, people will view it as a risk coming back after all this and it will rightly be at the forefront of people’s minds.
“Ensuring we keep our standards as high as possible and tackle the perception it is safe to come back to pubs will be a key challenge.”