Staff shortage threatens restaurant reopenings

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Restaurants are struggling to find staff ahead of indoor hospitality reopening next month, as around one in 10 UK hospitality workers left the sector last year.

A combination of lockdown closures and Brexit is thought to be to blame for thousands of restaurant staff leaving their jobs.

Restaurants and bars have been allowed to serve food and drink outdoors since 12 April, but on 17 May indoor dining is expected to resume. The shortage of staff could mean that some businesses won’t be able to open fully.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 355,000 fewer people were employed in hospitality in February than the year before.

Young workers experienced the greatest falls in employment in the sector: 78% who left the payroll were under the age of 35 and more than half that lost their jobs were under 25.

Neil Pattison, director at hospitality sector recruitment site Caterer.com, told the BBC: “Many restaurants, pubs and bars have experienced a sudden surge in business due to built-up customer demand and an increase in consumer confidence which is great news for the hospitality industry.

“However, the impact of the pandemic, combined with Brexit has the potential to create a significant recruitment challenge for the sector and we are likely to see the skills shortage it once faced starting to return.”

Caterer.com has seen the number of vacancies posted on its site jump by more than 85% in the last few weeks, with 22,000 roles now being advertised.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of the UK Hospitality trade body, said recruitment is a “growing issue” among businesses in the sector and is more acute in areas such as London and among some roles including chefs.

She urged the government to stick to its commitment to drop Covid-19 restrictions from 21 June and extend support for the sector.

“Hospitality business’ ability to reopen will remain massively hampered until the government can deliver on its commitment to dropping legal requirement of Covid restrictions and measures on 21 June. Even then, with so many companies facing rent debts and business rates bills, after more than a year with little trading, many companies – and thousands more jobs – will be in jeopardy unless further support is forthcoming.

“Should the 21 June date lapse, employer furlough contributions could also tip businesses over the edge. Additional support for jobs, coupled with longer-term plans for training, are vital.”

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