Staff crisis in the hotel industry: Act now or risk being the next France
The hotel sector is in the midst of a staff crisis. We always knew that staffing would be a challenge with a full reopening after Covid, that not everyone would return to work after a leave. Many of our French and Italian employees returned home during the lockdown and had decided not to return to the UK or only decided to return after all Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
Others got jobs outside of the industry and found those nine to five jobs with no evening shifts better suited to their lifestyle.
What we did not anticipate was how quickly we would need to replenish our troops. With our booking lines hit our People department worked around the clock to recruit approximately 100 new employees per week for most of May. We expected customers to return in large numbers after such a long lockdown. But we were surprised at how full our restaurants were from the start.
The last few weeks have been sweet and bitter. Our frontline teams have been severely tested. They had to work long hours to cope with being very busy when they were understaffed, especially in our kitchens. But our revenues were much higher than expected, providing much needed cash to start rebuilding the financial health of our business. And the customers have spent well and tipped generously, so our staff may have earned well after what has been a very long period of financially difficult lockdown.
So is staffing a temporary or a permanent problem? What is almost certain is that the demand for catering, subject to possible Covid control, will continue to grow. At the same time, the industry must face the reality of a reduction in the number of employees who have left the country or the industry. We need to replace these departures with new full-time and part-time employees entering the hotel industry. So, at D&D, we mainly strive to make the working life of our employees as rewarding as possible, and to promote ourselves and our industry to staff in other professions such as retail, travel and business. aviation, which may be slower to rebound. than hospitality.
Next month, we are launching a D&D Summer Camp aimed at training people with little or no experience in room and kitchen staff capable of holding full or part-time positions in our restaurants. We are also working closely with the government on its various training initiatives such as Kickstart to bring more young people into the hotel industry.
Many countries in continental Europe have seen the quality of their restaurants stop improving. Look at France.
The longer term outlook for restaurants brings certainties and also challenges that will have a significant impact not only on our economy but also on our quality of life. What is certain is that working in the restaurant business will eventually become a better paid and, hopefully, more popular profession. Staff costs will increase and the cost of restaurant meals is therefore also likely to increase. The optimist in me can see a future of increasingly motivated and talented young people entering the hospitality industry, well rewarded and customers happy to pay more to eat in restaurants.
The pessimist in me sees persistent challenges in attracting staff, an inability to raise prices and declining profitability for the industry. Many countries in continental Europe have experienced this and have seen the quality of their restaurants stop improving. Look at France. In contrast, over the past 20 years, the UK and London have gone from what was considered one of the worst foods in the world to one of the best. It is a prize that we must not lose.
The government must support the industry both financially as it recovers from Covid, and in terms of allowing it to continue to attract talent to maintain the UK’s hard-earned reputation for having world-class restaurants . It doesn’t just mean retraining young people in the UK. It is probably not enough. We will need to put in place policies to welcome enthusiastic and hard working staff, both highly skilled and less skilled, to the UK to support our economic recovery. Our quality of life in the UK has improved dramatically over the past 20 years. Good restaurants, bars and cafes have played an important role in this. Let’s not throw it all away.