Operators cite staffing crisis as biggest issue at ‘very worrying time’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Very worrying time: Recruitment crisis leads to struggling gastropubs (Getty/ MediaProduction)
Very worrying time: Recruitment crisis leads to struggling gastropubs (Getty/ MediaProduction)

Related tags Staff Recruitment Pub brexit Food

Operators of gastropubs cited lack of staffing as the biggest issue they were currently tackling, with Covid, Brexit and staff leaving the industry creating the “perfect storm”.

This comes after a recent survey from CGA and Fourth​ showed one in 10 roles in hospitality were still vacant, with just half (52%) of operators stating they were confident about their recruitment and retention in the next 12 months.

Steve Orme, operator at the Red Lion in Shepperton, Middlesex, said the recruitment crisis meant he was struggling to staff his kitchens, meaning he could not open his pub every day of the week.

He put this down to the “perfect storm” of Brexit - which he deemed an “absolute nightmare” – Covid, and staff leaving the industry.

“Before Brexit and Covid, I had two Hungarian chefs, one Latvian chef and one chef from Estonia, so had numerous nationalities working in a multicultural kitchen,” he said. “This brings in different skills, and that’s why we have such a diverse, wonderful food network in this country.”

Unable to find staff

However, Orme was now looking at hiring food trucks to come into the business as he could not run the kitchens. “Working kitchens was never a walk in the park – you’ve got to be dedicated and want to do what you do, it’s long hours, it’s tough,” he said.

He added: “The only way we’re managing to keep people is to pay more and more, as there is a smaller pool of folk wanting to do the jobs. That will slowly break the business.”

The operator claimed to be advertising for someone to wash up for £28,000 a year with a pension and five and a half weeks holiday, yet he couldn’t get anyone to do it.

“You don’t even have to wash them yourself, you just have to put them in the £7,000 washing machine I have bought,” he said. “It’s crazy. The industry is currently being run by children.”

Remote location struggles

Stosie Madi, the award-winning chef-patron of the Lancashire based gastropub the Parkers Arms, Newton-in-Bowland, also said staffing was the biggest issue the pub was facing.

“As a remote location with no available transport to us, we rely on an almost non-existent workforce around us,” she said, and added, “with the continuing ongoing national employment crisis, the recruitment pool is even smaller.”

According to Madi, that there was no amenities or social life around the venue and that having your own transport was very necessary, especially when you considered current fuel prices, made recruitment even harder than it already was.

“Visitor and diner demand for us is at its highest ever, even more so with the warmer weather around the corner. It is a very worrying time,” she said. “We get applicants, and once they see the ruralness of the location we lose them.”

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