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Hospitality & Catering Talent Shortages: What’s the Latest?

Author: Chantelle Mensah

Published date: 2022/06

Prs H15 (1)

Between February and April, job vacancies rose to a new record of 1,295,000, an increase of 33,700 from the previous quarter, according to the latest data from the ONS.

It follows reports that hospitality businesses are more than twice as likely as other industries to experience challenges filling vacancies. In February, UKHospitality extracted data from an ONS jobs report and discovered that vacancies in hospitality are more than 100% higher than in the corresponding pre-Covid period.

A lack of EU applicants due to Brexit rules remains a significant contributor to talent shortages, but the issue extends further. “When hospitality businesses were forced to close their doors during the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers switched sectors,” says PRS Director of Business Development, Chantelle Mensah. “It meant that, even when restaurants, pubs, and hotels re-opened, people were working elsewhere and reluctant to head back into a sector that offers little flexibility and, often unsociable working hours.”

Many workers moved into the logistics sector, predominantly taking on picking/packing or driving roles. Chantelle continues: “Logistics offered the job security that hospitality and catering simply couldn’t during the pandemic. While pay rates are similar, workers have greater autonomy over their working hours, meaning they can achieve a much better work-life balance.” 

Hospitality and catering employers also face challenges filling permanent roles, with candidates instead opting to work on a freelance/contractor basis through an agency due to the higher pay rate and increased flexibility it offers. “Going through a recruitment agency was essential for hospitality talent during the pandemic so they could go where the work was,” says Chantelle. “Now, they know they can get more money working through this model and have greater autonomy over where they work and how long for. Why accept a permanent job with a hospitality employer when working through an agency means more money and freedom?” 

An obvious solution is for employers to pay permanent workers more – something out of reach for those hospitality and catering businesses still recovering from two years of lost trading. However, can more work be done to change perceptions of working in the sector? Recent research from Caterer.com revealed that 95% of school leavers are not currently considering a career in hospitality. A lack of information on potential career opportunities has led to misconceptions about the sector, with 55% of school leavers viewing hospitality jobs as just a temporary fix and 44% believing the sector doesn’t offer career progression. 

Chantelle comments: “There’s little awareness of what a career in this field can offer. Employers are failing to drum up the curiosity and excitement required to attract new workers to the sector. Recruitment has become perfunctory – ‘we need someone for this role, here’s the pay and location’. People want to know their contributions will be valued and that there are opportunities to train and grow their career, especially in today’s candidate-driven market where competition is fierce.” 

Low-skilled and entry-level roles remain the hardest to fill. However, the struggle isn’t just attributed to a lack of candidates willing to take on such roles, as Chantelle explains: “Because businesses are short-staffed, they lack the resources required to train workers new to the sector. It’s a catch-22 situation; employers are desperate for staff but don’t have the time to train them. It’s a big issue and one they need to get a handle on, as they will unlikely secure experienced workers who can hit the ground running for entry-level roles.” 

Despite recruitment remaining a challenge in hospitality and catering, 2022 has seen increased activity for most businesses operating within the sector. It’s hoped that the busy summer season will provide a further uplift as events resume and tourism peaks during the school holiday period. 

Chantelle concludes: “People must remember that the sector faced a huge talent shortage several years ago and managed to bounce back successfully. We’ll get through it again – not as fast as we’d like, of course, but it’s a highly resilient sector that has weathered its fair share of storms and come out the other side.” 

Looking for hospitality talent?

Our specialist recruitment team operates across the UK and are ready to connect you with a wide range of hospitality and catering professionals at all skill and experience levels. We’re on-hand to answer any questions and find out more about your precise talent needs. Drop us a line on 0207 553 5660 or email Chantelle.Mensah@prsjobs.com