Restaurants and hospitality businesses could be forced to increase their prices as wages face upwards pressure from staff shortages.
Employers in the industry have been dogged by candidate shortages since lockdown restrictions eased and venues have been able to open again.
Many workers switched industries during the pandemic and have not returned, while a recent study by job board Caterer.com found that 93,000 EU workers have been lost to the sector due to Brexit.
Cain International, which runs chains such as Prezzo, reported last week that around 15% of roles remain unfilled, with restaurant managers stepping in to help in the kitchen.
Chief executive Jonathan Goldstein said this was “unsustainable” and would get worse after the summer as university students returned to campus and left summer jobs.
The company said it planned a new salary and incentives package for staff from autumn this year, but Goldstein added that wage inflation could be passed on to customers through price rises.
He called for the government to make vocational training part of its post-Covid recovery programme and to make it easier for overseas workers to enter the country to work for restaurants.
Caterer.com’s survey found that 90% of hospitality businesses were now paying at least the Living Wage, which is £9.50 an hour outside London and £10.85 in the capital. It also found that many employers in the sector had revamped their employer branding and benefits in a bid to attract more diverse tools of talent.
Hawksmoor, which recently offered bonuses of up to £2,000 for candidate referrals from staff, is also said to be experiencing shortages of around 10%.