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Bars and restaurants are struggling to recruit enough staff, and some may not be able to fully reopen in May, after thousands of workers have left the industry.
Site owners say they expect huge demand from customers, but understaffing may force them to limit hours of operation.
Figures suggest that more than one in ten hospitality workers in the UK left the industry last year.
Recruitment site Caterer.com said the pandemic and Brexit were to blame.
Some have managed to find other jobs, but a high proportion may have left the UK entirely, the recruiter said.
So although many hospitality workers have been made redundant in the past 12 months, restaurant owners are now struggling to fill places.
Celebrity chef Michael Caines is among those who find recruiting difficult.
It operates two restaurants on the Cornish coast and a hotel in Exmouth. A beach bar and restaurant in Exmouth are also expected to open.
He is currently trying to hire 20 new staff across the group.
“There is no doubt that recruiting is a challenge,” he said.
“All businesses are extremely busy. For the next three or four months our hotel is fully booked so we are desperately trying to recruit enough staff.”
Mr Caines said Brexit and the pandemic had caused European workers to leave and not return, but said another problem was the number of workers still on leave.
While they wait to return to work, they are less willing to change employers.
“A lot of people feel very worried about leaving a job where they are eligible for time off to take on the new job where they would not be eligible for time off if there was another foreclosure,” he explained.
“So there is a bit of nervousness from an employee’s perspective.”
Caines hopes the roles will be more easily filled when students leave college and university and start looking for summer work.
Restaurants and bars have been allowed to serve food and drink outdoors since April 12, while indoor dining is expected to resume from May 17. And many UK hotel establishments are hoping that pent-up demand and a more UK-focused holiday season will translate into a great summer.
As a result, recruitment was a “growing problem,” said Kate Nicholls, managing director of UK Hospitality. It was more serious in some areas, like London, than in others, she added, and that could mean some venues are struggling to reopen.
The trade association said vacant chef positions were among the most difficult to fill. But restaurateurs have reported staff shortages in all types of roles.
Specialist recruiter Caterer.com said the number of vacancies on its website had increased by more than 85% in recent weeks, with 22,000 positions now advertised.
But he pointed to figures from the Bureau of National Statistics suggesting that 355,000 fewer people were employed in the hotel industry compared to a year ago. Before the pandemic, around 3.2 million people were employed in the sector, including bars, restaurants and hotels.
“Many restaurants, pubs and bars have experienced a sudden surge in business due to growing customer demand and increased consumer confidence, which is great news for the hospitality industry,” said Neil Pattison, Director of Caterer.com.
“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 has already encountered start to return.”
Before Brexit, much of the UK hotel workforce was made up of foreign workers, including from the EU, but hundreds of thousands of foreign workers have left the UK in the past year and we do not know if they will return.
Luke Garnsworthy, who owns Crockers Henley, a hotel and gourmet restaurant in Oxfordshire, and Crockers Tring in Hertfordshire, said he was struggling to recruit enough staff to fully open his restaurants next month .
In addition to chefs, he hopes to hire front desk staff and servers.
“I did some commercials and thought I was putting the net in a sea full of fish but it wasn’t like that at all.”
Mr. Garnsworthy expects to employ between 45 and 50 people at his Henley site, where the workforce is currently only 12.
He said senior team members would step in to fill positions if needed, but the restaurant would likely only be able to open five days a week instead of seven.
Recruitment into the hospitality industry has always been a challenge, even before the pandemic, but is “significantly worse now,” according to Garnsworthy.
“We are seen as unskilled, so the country is looking down… and young people are not interested.”
He wants them to know that while it is hard work, “the days of Gordon Ramsey’s screaming” are at least over.
Masterchef The Professionals restaurateur and finalist Sven-Hanson Britt also operates several establishments.
He said staff turnover in the hospitality industry is normally high, but he also said staff on leave remain loyal to their current employer.
“There is no ebb and flow with talent because people stay put.
“It’s very difficult at the moment and finding someone for senior positions is difficult.”
Mr. Britt hopes to recruit pastry chefs, chocolatiers and a sommelier.
“We don’t seem to find anyone in this arena,” he added.
The company hired staff in October, but application rates this time around are much lower.
“Some companies have closed or gone bankrupt and people have felt abandoned by their employer or the industry as a whole,” he said.
“I know a lot of people who have moved on to something different.”