Sector bosses urge over-50s to join workforce

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Talent pool: 7/10 managers think having staff aged over 50 would boost business
Talent pool: 7/10 managers think having staff aged over 50 would boost business

Related tags Training Multi-site pub operators

Pub and restaurant bosses believe the recruitment problems impacting hospitality could be solved if older people returned to work to consider a late-life career as a chef, bartender or waiter.

Around three quarters (72%) of pub and restaurant operators agreed that having more over 50s on the payroll could fix the workforce crisis that has put thousands of businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, according to a new study commissioned by hospitality recruitment platform Barcats.

The survey of a thousand hospitality managers responsible for hiring staff found that almost two thirds (64%) would consider hiring someone over 50, with half (49%) praising the reliability of older workers over young ones.

Over the past six years, the industry has increased its annual economic contribution by £20bn to £93bn, but despite being the 3rd​ biggest employer in the UK, accounting for 3.5m jobs through direct employment in 2022, and a further 3m indirectly, it continues to suffer from restricted growth and a tight labour market.

Almost a third (32%) of bosses surveyed said they were still experiencing problems with hiring skilled labour including chefs, kitchen workers, bar staff and waiters.

A significant proportion said recruitment issues had nearly put them out of business (44%) and in some cases (13%) had forced them to close for part of the week.

Expanding the career search

Barcats chief executive Jeff Williams said: “This research shows that the hospitality sector is actively encouraging older and retired people to come forward and apply for jobs in their local pubs, restaurants and cafes.

"Seven in 10 managers think having staff aged over 50 would give their business a boost and we’ve seen this work really well in other territories that Barcats already operates in.

“Globally the hospitality industry has suffered over recent years - but the UK has been hit even harder with the added pressure of Brexit.”

According to recent ONS data, the increase in economic inactivity since the start of the pandemic has been driven by the over-50 age group.

Nearly half of those aged 60 to 65 who chose to give up work around the time the pandemic struck had not returned by last summer.

What’s more, a third (33%) aged 55 to 59, and one in 10 (9%) aged 50 to 54, had chosen to retire early.

According to the Barcats survey, managers think older people are put off from applying for vacant roles either because they think they are too old for the type of work the job would involve (59%) or because they believe that employers don’t want them (36%).

'Rewarding' career

Williams added: “While older workers may not have to current drinks trends nailed, they could still be the most fabulous bartender or sommelier by undertaking our training programmes which are offered free to all, means they can refresh or upskill to ensure everyone is 2023 – hospitality ready”.

Helen Whitchurch, 53, who works at a pub called the Devonshire Arms, said: “I love working with people but found managing the Lettings side of Estate Agency too stressful, and unpredictable and this was affecting my home life.

She then decided it was time for a change, and began working at the Devonshire Arms six years ago. She has never looked back.

“The hospitality sector is great for the over 50s,” she said. “I get to meet loads of people, it’s fun, and enjoyable however – I take my role seriously and understand how I fit into the overall wellbeing and management of the pub. But at the end of the day, I leave it in the pub, switch off and go home.
“I would encourage any other person thinking of getting a full or part time role to consider hospitality, it’s so much fun, and really rewarding.”

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