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Catering staff shortages are ongoing, but what’s the answer?

Author: Matthew Przyborowski

Published date: 2021/06


‘I can’t recruit chefs’ was the headline of a Guardian article this month that highlighted the staffing crisis in the hospitality sector following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Restaurants and bars can now serve indoors for the first time in five months, but many are struggling to find the catering staff they need. Here, we look at the key reasons behind these talent shortages.

Furlough Scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the March Budget that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, or furlough, will continue until the end of September 2021. According to data from software provider Fourth, 43% of the hospitality workforce remains on furlough. 

Industry insiders are concerned that ongoing furlough payments are impacting people’s desire to get back into the workplace, particularly with reports of new strains of the virus emerging and an underlying worry of another lockdown.

Impact of Brexit

According to KPMG, up to a quarter of the hospitality workforce nationwide, and 38% in London, was made up of EU nationals. Since March 2020, almost 300,000 catering and hospitality workers are thought to have left their jobs and returned to their home countries. 

The movement of this key demographic has left the catering talent pool severely depleted, with businesses fiercely competing to secure the skills that will enable them to operate at peak capacity. There’s concern amongst industry insiders that greater barriers between the UK and EU countries will cause workers to look elsewhere for work opportunities.

What’s the answer? 

In an interview with Bloomberg, Des Gunewardena, CEO of D&D, which owns 42 high-end restaurants based primarily in London, said that significant changes are inevitable: “Longer term, it will be a higher skills, higher wage sector.” 

While some initiatives, such as ‘Springboard to 2022’, seek to encourage young people to consider a career in catering and hospitality, it’s crucial that businesses find the talent they need to get back on their feet right now.

A specialist catering recruiter, like PRS, will have extensive talent pipelines that have been built over years that businesses can tap into when they need them the most. Now’s also a good time for employers to think about what they can do to appeal to the smaller talent pool. For example, is it easier to recruit part-time staff in your region rather than full-time? And, after a year of uncertainty, is it worth highlighting that a role is permanent above other benefits? Is shift flexibility something you can offer to promote a healthy work-life balance? What about career development opportunities? 

If you’re looking to secure catering and hospitality staff for your business or are looking for advice on how to improve your employer brand to stand out from the competition, get in touch with the experts at PRS. Call us on 0207 553 5660 or email us at