'Chronic' recruitment challenges 'biggest threat' to sector

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Crying out: staff shortages one of the "biggest threats" to businesses (Credit:Getty/andresr)
Crying out: staff shortages one of the "biggest threats" to businesses (Credit:Getty/andresr)

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One of the “biggest threats” to hospitality businesses is the inability to recruit good teams amid “chronic” staff shortages.

Bath Pub Company managing director Joe Cussens​ stated the Government seemed to be a “complete mess” and appeared to have “no real plan”.

He said: “The Government] talk about wanting to grow the economy and bring down inflation, and yet they stubbornly refuse to recognise that hospitality has a chronic staffing shortage.”

Cussens added many hospitality businesses have been forced to hire staff that may not be “right” when recruiting key positions that are “fundamental to success” due to the “chronic shortage of people”.

He continued: “The biggest threat, in many ways, to a business in many ways is the inability to recruit good teams. Once you've got a good team in place, you're far better placed to address all the other challenges, give good service and get better margins.

“It's very difficult to manage and deliver a good product and attain a decent bottom line when you can't fill the vacancies in your team. The lack of access to the European workforce is a major contributory factor.”

This comes as recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed job vacancies in the sector were 48% higher than pre-pandemic levels, standing at 132,000 in May this year.

Massive skills shortage 

Last month, UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls called for the Government to add chefs, hospitality supervisors, including housekeepers and receptionists, and sommeliers, to the Shortage Occupation List​ in order to alleviate persistent shortages.

Nicholls said: “While the sector continues to invest significantly in growing its own talent, there needs to be changes to our immigration system to enable businesses to fill essential skills gaps.”

Moreover, earlier this year, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII​) also urged the Government to allow job shortages​ to be filled by migrant workers.

Cussens added the sector had been hit with a “double whammy” of people leaving the industry following Brexit and the pandemic.

“[The Government] say they are going to relax the immigration doors for industries, but they don't for hospitality.

“[The sector] has been crying out even before the pandemic but certainly since Brexit, there's a massive skill shortage”, Cussens continued.

Additionally, the managing director explained a lack of staff risked wage costs increasing, which are likely to get passed onto to consumers and further fuel inflation.

Data released by ONS today (Tuesday 11 July) estimated regular pay had risen 7.3% between March and May this year compared with the same period last year. This is typical of the Government; they've got contradictory objectives."

Very frustrating 

“They want to grow the economy and reduce inflation, yet they have this obsession with migration and can't understand it. Good economic migration will help them achieve those other objectives.

“One of the best things they could do for us, the economy and inflation would be to allow [hospitality] to have access to European workers”, Cussens added.

Operators are also battling with high inflation​ levels, which hit 8.7% last month, as well as onerous energy contracts, rising food prices​, and increased interest rates.

However, UKH recently estimated the sector, which the trade body stated was the third largest employer in the country, could boost its annual economic contribution by £20bn​ with the right Government support.

Cussens said: “The biggest thing [the Government] could do is to is to help solve recruitment problems to help businesses manage themselves better.

“The frustration is the Government have shrugged their shoulders and seem to be completely unconcerned.

“They have the power and were elected on the back of the ‘take back control’ slogan’, but they've got the control and they're not using it. It’s very frustrating.”

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