Labour Crisis in the Hospitality Industry and its Solutions.

In Britain, the restaurant industry was left in a calamitous state due to the global pandemic. Lockdowns that were imposed in the first and second wave of the virus kept the ban on in-door dining at restaurants throughout. During this time, a considerable amount of workforce has left the industry and many were laid-off due to closures. Currently, there is a pressing shortage of employees in the restaurants, from chefs to front-of-house staff. Meanwhile, a surprisingly high demand was seen on the part of the customers as the world is slowly coming back to normal.

The prevalent issues that prompted this catastrophic labour shortage were:

  • Substantial amount of workers furloughed:

The economy of the UK was left in a devastating state by the year 2020 due to various lockdowns. A large number of restaurant workers were furloughed after which majority of European Union migrants returned back home. Moreover, with Britain leaving the EU single market, the open-door policy for these migrants was shut. The process for migrants still wishing to come back became more tough requiring visas in a points-based immigration system. Quarantine restrictions also exacerbated the whole situation.

  • Workers wanted more anchored employment:

People still doubt that the UK won’t see another lockdown. Even with the successful vaccination program taking place, the delta variant of corona virus has instilled fear in the population. Previous restaurant workers were traumatized by the sudden loss of work, especially those whose couldn’t carry on by doing work-from-home. So, now this sector is deemed very risky by the workers as the sword of another possible outbreak of COVID-19 is hanging over our heads.

  • Workers want less demanding jobs:

The restaurant work can be pretty hectic as there are long shifts with late-night timings especially now when restaurants are busier than ever. The pay-off for working such long hours with a minimum wage rate had made workers question whether the effort is worth making and the answer was no for many. Moreover, employees of hospitality industry have always been treated unjustly by customers most of the time, which is a no-brainer for not choosing to go back to this service sector. Recent illustration of this can be seen in the some cases of violence from customers when asked to wear masks.

On one hand, a substantial amount of workers have left the industry. And on the other hand, the workers who are still working at restaurants are bearing the burden of haywire shifts and intense workload while trying to cope with the influx of customers. There is unprecedented pressure on restaurants for recruiting staff as soon as possible to cater to the risen demand on part of the consumers and not missing out on revenue. So, the restaurant owners alongside the Government need to take remedial actions for transforming restaurant industry as a worker-friendly one.

Solutions for resolving UK’s restaurant industry ‘Labour crisis’:

  • Raise the salaries of workers and offer financial incentives:

The most apparent way of making any job more lucrative is to offer higher wages. However, this would pass on the excessive cost towards the customers and inflate the prices. But this is important to bring in more labour in order to meet the risen demand in the industry (Economics concept of Supply and Demand). This will of course, not be a quick solution as the high pay will attract some non-compatible workers with not the required skills.

Businesses also need to offer monetary compensations in the form of bonuses, raises, gifts and profit sharing with employees. They can also arrange free training workshops for their skills development.

  • Improved working conditions for employees:

There is a dire need to reduce the working hours per shift for workers in the industry to take off the strenuous workload off their shoulders. Keeping their mental and physical health intact is the foremost priority. When talking about health, it should be the employer’s responsibility to make sure the staff gets vaccinated and have personal protective equipment kits in case there is a new outbreak.

Another point to stress here is having rules in-place about good behavior of customers with the employees. Any sort of misbehavior and violence towards the workers should not be entertained and should be strictly condemned.

  • Making Hospitality a lucrative career-option for Britons:

Restaurant owners should shift their attention towards the labor pool of domestic workers. The vacancies created in the industry by workers who left or switched the sector should be filled by the domestic workforce. This is only possible if we make this career math seems attractive to domestic population. Employers need to promote their businesses and the industry in general by representing the promising opportunities they can avail in the future. The paradigm needs to be shifted about these jobs being a part-time work, towards a proper career choice with career growth beyond entry-level positions.

  • Making use of Information Technology:

Innovative tech solutions can be used to decrease the dependence on restaurant workers. These creative products like on-screen menu, online ordering and payment applications can reduce the number of employees needed to meet the rising customer demand.

  • UK Government’s role in persuading workers to enter the industry:

Firstly, the Government needs to take notice of the dangerously low-wage rate in the sector and women still getting paid less than men. Part time workers find themselves stuck in this vicious cycle. With the joint efforts of Government and employers, this endemic can be cured and the sector will become less unattractive to domestic workers and specifically to those willing to work part-time.

Another dangerous work trend is Zero-hours contracts which provide no assurance of minimum work hours paired with minimal training. These contracts have destructive effects on the progression of worker’s careers and needs to be seriously addressed by the official bodies in order to exterminate this trend which makes worker reluctant to come in the industry.

The Mayor Good Work Standard sets benchmarks for employers and requires them to provide a secure and just workplace for employees. The Mayor can assemble a task force to make and oversee the recovery plan complying with the Good Work Standard for London hospitality sector to come out of this Labour crisis.

  • Hospitality sector efforts:

Only A Pavement Away is charity that helps people who are homeless, ex-offenders and veterans to find jobs in the hospitality sector. It is founded by the representative of UK hospitality industry. Labour shortage is showing an increasing trend in this sector. And the amount of people expected to face homelessness in the future is also on the rise. So, two birds can be killed with one stone by employing these people in the hospitality sector.

I strongly believe that the hospitality industry needs to come out of this crisis and embrace the opportunities that this post-pandemic world has to offer. However, these opportunities can only be availed if the existing labour crisis is solved.


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