Experts in catering and hospitality are warning of staffing shortages in the coming year as the consequences of a global pandemic and Brexit hit the sectors.
Data analysed by catering experts Taf Consultancy shows that 9 in 10 contract caterers are facing shortages this year. The data also shows that 51 per cent of businesses anticipate shortages in all roles and 39 per cent are concerned about back-of-house roles only.
City-based solicitors Bates Wells also reported shortages in the hospitality and leisure sector could hit crisis levels following the 30th June deadline for EU citizens to apply for settled status in the UK, after which it will become more difficult to hire EU workers.
Tracey Fairclough, managing director of Taf Consultancy, said: “There’s no doubt to my mind our hospitality sector has experienced unprecedented and severe labour shortages since the sector reopened following lockdown. This is due in part to workers from overseas leaving the UK to return to their home countries either because of Brexit or the coronavirus pandemic. Then there’s the furlough ‘hangover’ where a lot of people have now got other jobs to keep themselves going and are not coming back to the industry. This has been frustrating for many of the caterers we’ve been talking to.
“Currently, there are no provisions for low-skilled workers under the new points-based immigration system. As a result, it will be extremely difficult to hire non-British/Irish nationals or EU workers who don’t already have the right to work after the grace period elapses on June 30th."
According to Bates Wells, EEA workers comprise 7.3 per cent of the UK’s working population and there are entire industry sectors that are wholly dependent on labour from these countries.
As a result, some in the industry have started campaigns to raise awareness.
Ian Thomas, CEO of Bartlett Mitchell, said: “The staffing crisis in hospitality is a significant issue, largely brought about by the fact that people have either changed sectors due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic or due to those who cannot come back to work in the UK because of Brexit.
“The workplace catering sector is yet to feel the full force of this as we haven’t quite yet returned to the levels of occupancy we saw in buildings pre-pandemic. However, as things return to some form of normality, we expect this to have a significant impact on our part of the sector too.
“Not only will we need to continue to promote hospitality as a career of choice but the whole sector will need to look at more dynamic staffing solutions to be able to mitigate against any challenges.”
Tevin Tobun, CEO, GV Group, which is a multi sector company with subsidiary division in food logistics & distribution, property development, infrastructure & support services, said: “The current staffing issues created as a consequence of both the pandemic and Brexit has not only had a direct impact on operators, but it has had a knock-on effect on the whole supply chain.
“Not only do we see a shortfall in people available to serve and cook food, but there are also increasing concerns around how food and supplies can be delivered when the food logistics sector has also lost people as a result of the aforementioned issues.
“Right now, it is incumbent on organisations to look at alternative models to help find a solution to the current challenges, be it through more dynamic sourcing and distribution of produce, and through more engagement with last-mile logistics organisations.
Tobun says that GV Group was able to "allocate resource according to immediate need" because it worked across different sectors which he says "is important as it can mitigate against some challenges and help bridge the shortfall some organisations may have”.