Ongoing staffing problems posed by the pandemic have seen businesses in the U.K. hospitality sector struggle more than others to fill vacancies. In September, the ONS reported that the hospitality’s sector vacancy rate was twice that of the economy as a whole, despite the sector creating 122,000 new jobs between March and June.
The situation has been exacerbated by Brexit and the lack of EU applicants, but it now threatens to hold restaurants bars and hotels back, just as they are reopening or planning to expand after more than a year of battling the impact of the pandemic. Many are turning to technology to ease the pressure; others are offering more money, but there is a school of thought that says hospitality needs to think the way that it hires.
Apps for staffing gaps
Innovations in technology can streamline many of the processes in hospitality and ease the pressure on staffing demands. Using the mobile ordering platform Yoello, for example, customers can order food and drinks to the table by scanning a QR code, and without needing to download an app. The system can increase table turnover, boosting customer numbers and sales of food and drink, without the need for extra staff.
Hospitality payment app Sunday allows diners to scan a QR code, split the bill between friends, and leave a tip without having to catch a waiter’s eye. The app has already signed up over 1,000 venues and is operational across the U.K., France, Spain and parts of the U.S.
Some solutions are designed to find the extra pairs of hands that businesses need during their busiest times. Student work app Stint connects hospitality businesses with students who want Stints – short flexible shifts of basic tasks. Founded in 2018, Stint works with more than 75,000 students in over 32 towns and cities across the U.K. and has helped facilitate over 65,000 Stints at over 1,000 businesses.
Cofounder Sol Schlagman says: “We’ve seen a big increase in demand from hospitality businesses facing staffing issues, and we can help by integrating Stints into their staffing rotas and connecting them with students who do those Stints during their busiest periods each day.”
Schlagman argues that Stint is more than just a stop-gap solution; it facilitates changes to the operating model of a hospitality business by providing a long-term staffing solution to pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country, ensuring they have the right number of staff every hour of the day. He says: “Long-term integration with Stint is valuable because it allows businesses to maximize sales while improving the wellbeing of their core team and keeping costs under control.”
Bonuses, pay and perks
Offering attractive pay and conditions is one way that hospitality businesses can gain a competitive edge in the recruitment stakes. Earlier this year restaurant group Hawksmoor, which has steak houses in the U.K and the U.S., announced that it was offering bonuses to workers who recommended friends for jobs in a bid to tackle staffing shortages. Staff receive £200 for the first friend, £300 for the second friend, and up to £2,000 for five, with the bonuses paid once the new joiner has completed a one-month trial.
JM Socials, a restaurant group based in the Cotswolds has also been hit hard by staffing issues, due mainly to Brexit. One of its restaurants recently had to close while they tried to recruit new chefs. To help overcome the challenges, the company hired a People’s and Culture Manager who has created an extensive benefits package for each employee, which includes increasing holidays to 30 days, and other benefits like Employee Assistance Programs, gym memberships, etc. Marketing manager Emily Redman says: “We’ve found this has enticed people, and so far, it seems to be working well.”
Rethinking recruitment strategies
Some industry experts feel that outdated recruitment strategies are also to blame and that a more relevant approach to hiring is called for.
Recruitment matching service Placed, used by some of the biggest names in hospitality, was founded by Jennifer Johannson to bridge the disconnect between the way that restaurants, bars and hotels and bars recruited people and the way that prospects, typically usually those from younger generations, look for jobs.
She had worked in hospitality, initially at McDonald’s and hotels, before joining concierge service Quintessentially, where she saw first-hand the problems that businesses in the sector were facing. During meetings with owners and managers, she was constantly being asked whether she knew of anyone looking for work, and quickly realized that these places were always recruiting, especially for lower and entry-level positions.
“The hospitality industry is the largest employer of people under the age of 25, yet when I started researching how it was attracting talent, I noticed a huge disconnect,” she says. “‘Staff wanted’ signs in windows are still being used, and job seekers are often asked to bring a hard copy of their CV to their interviews. It was clear that the sector was not attuned to how younger generations searched for jobs, while employers were failing to communicate the things that made them a desirable employer.”
Placed enables prospects to create a profile that showcases their achievements and experience, as well as their personality and then matches them to employers aligned with their values and role desires. At the same time, the app allows employers to display the attributes that make them an attractive place to work, from culture and career progression to perks.
Johannson believes that U.K. hospitality also has an image problem, leading prospects to view the sector as one best left to students or those with limited options, rather than a place to consider a long-term career.
“In Sweden, if a graduate has ambitions to build a career in hospitality, no one challenges, belittles, or judges this desire,” she says. “The sector is perceived as an attractive one to join, and is no different to any other sectors in terms of professional development, where progression occurs with hard work and experience.”