‘Everyone loves going out to eat, but they don’t appreciate the work in the industry'

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Fox & Hounds: Staffing struggle at gastropub part of bigger problem (Getty/ South agency)
Fox & Hounds: Staffing struggle at gastropub part of bigger problem (Getty/ South agency)

Related tags: Staff, Top 50 gastropubs, Hertfordshire, Coronavirus, Training

Staffing problems are an “ongoing struggle” at top Hertfordshire gastropub the Fox & Hounds in Barley, which was down 50% staffing levels when reopening in the new year.

Chef-owner Brett Barnes put people leaving the industry down to Brexit and long working hours, with problems made worse by remaining staff frequently having to isolate due to Covid. 

He said: “Since the first and second lockdown, a lot of people have left the industry; they realise they don't want to work weekends and they don't want to do the long hours. This means the people who are still working have to work twice as hard, or twice as long, or both”. 

This makes Barnes worry, are the remaining staff going to get fed up and leave? “You want to look after the people who are working so hard, but at the same time, when everyone's off and everyone's isolating, you've got no one else to do the job. It's very hard to know what to do that’s best for everyone,” he said. 

An ongoing issue

The kitchen roles at the Fox & Hounds were harder to fill than front of house roles, as they involved a certain level of skill and experience. While Barnes had been training some kitchen porters on basic skills like food prep and plating up desserts, the situation was not ideal. 

“If we do train up kitchen porters for chef positions, we then need to refill the kitchen porter role, so it’s an ongoing issue,” said Barnes.  

The solution to staffing shortages, for Barnes, was to make the industry appear attractive: “There’s not a lot you can do about staff working the weekends and evenings because that's when people go out to eat, which will always be the case,” he said. 

Working at a craft and hard graft

He continued: “It’s about making the point that you work at a craft; it's something you can enjoy, rather than being sat behind a desk, which doesn't appeal to a lot of people.  

“It’s about giving people a good work life balance and giving them competitive salaries, which are areas improving already in the industry. 

“Everyone loves going out to eat and going out for drinks, but they don't necessarily appreciate the other side of it and the work in the industry. It can be an amazing and fun industry to work in; I’ve loved it in the last 20 years. It’s just about selling it to other people”. 

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