by | May 19, 2021 | Business

Hospitality job crisis

Having survived Brexit and a global pandemic, the Hospitality industry now finds itself facing a jobs crisis. Recent figures suggest more than one in ten UK hospitality workers left the industry in the last year. It’s not surprising given the perfect storm of 2020, but although many hospitality workers were laid off during the last 12 months, restaurateurs are now finding it hard to fill places.

UK Hospitality recently published their intentions to support the industry, working together with the Department for Work and Pensions on ways to get more people into the hospitality workforce. These include pushing for an accelerated Kickstarter programme, as well as conference calls with hospitality ‘work coaches’ – those who meet jobseekers face-to-face – to educate them on the hospitality sector and how they can encourage and direct future workers to our businesses.

UK Hospitality quite rightly point out “There is a strong feeling that people are still being advised against working in our sector as it is seen as a risky prospect with limited career opportunities. We must change this perception.”

So where did it all go wrong?

A quick scan of recent job postings in Liverpool shows that many businesses are still seeking staff for their venues. Around half are advertising minimum wage positions. Very few are advertising more than the National Living Wage. And yet these are positions which involve manual labour, antisocial hours and varying levels of expertise in safety, food preparation and customer service.

Chefs train for 2-3 years to qualify in their field. With 80-hour weeks being commonplace in the physically challenging kitchen environment, it’s no wonder that over 19,000 chefs leave the sector every year. The majority of chefs exit the industry before their 35th birthday. They re-emerge as plumbers, electricians and teachers – jobs where they train and study for the same amount of time but are now both recognised and rewarded for their skillset.

And herein lies the problem. The majority of positions in the hospitality industry are perceived as unskilled, and the country looks down their nose. Young people are not interested. A job in hospitality is for summer, not for life.

I spent 9 years of my career working for McDonald’s. A business who – despite popular opinion – treat their employees extremely well. During my tenure a decade ago the average Store Manager was responsible for a site with a turnover of around £3m a year and a team of 50 employees. Private healthcare and a company car were standard, as was a 10-week paid sabbatical after 10 years of service. The majority had started in minimum wage roles, but had progressed to earn around £40k a year once you factored in their regular bonuses. Many went on to work in head office, several became heads of departments and a small number even became franchisees.

Most of the Store Managers I worked with were also under the age of 30. I’d challenge you to show me another sector where that kind of personal growth is possible in one business in such a short period of time for someone of that age.

If we want to recruit the right people – and more importantly retain the right people – we have to start doing a better job of promoting the reasons why hospitality is a valid career choice rather than a short term stopgap. And by promoting, I mean screaming them at the top of our lungs. Tell the world what your business has to offer if they choose to become part of your hospo family. Because it now seems – having survived Brexit and a global pandemic – a shortage of good people could be the final nail in the coffin for our industry.

This opinion article does not necessarily represent the views of Foursquare Group as an organisation.
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