As UK restaurants are reopening as months of Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, staff shortages are causing problems even in top establishments for vacancies from chefs to sommeliers.
New research carried out by consultancy groups CGA and Fourth say that 9 in 10 hospitality business owners will experience recruitment problems this year, as the combination of Brexit and the Covid 19 pandemic has created an unprecedented staff shortage. Many restaurant and pub staff were forced to find alternative work following successive lockdowns. The report’s authors also said that Brexit had caused a “steep drop in people travelling from Europe to work in the UK,” contributing to this problem.
Federica Zanghirella, vice president and course director of the UK Sommelier Association, told Decanter, “Since the hospitality sector has reopened, we are receiving daily emails [from] agencies or restaurants looking for sommeliers.
A sommelier is a fast, rewarding and fulfilling job. The UK Sommelier Association will restart running its training courses in October, hopefully easing employment issues with the role.
Zanghirella added that the media also has a role in making people aware of career possibilities. She said, “For all the talk of staff shortages, no one talks about the solution, which is training.”
The high-profile chef, Michel Roux Jr, the patron of the famous restaurant Le Gavroche, said, “We have found it very difficult to find staff across all of my establishments, including in Scotland, for all positions from KP to managers. Even ‘casual’ [and] agency workers are very scarce. We’re fortunate that at Le Gavroche, all of our senior team members have come back.”
Adam Handling, chef and owner of the Adam Handling Restaurant Group, said, “I think this is a harder time to recruit than I can ever remember having before. Front-of-house doesn’t seem to be as difficult, but there genuinely seems to be a national chef de partie shortage.” He added he had been lucky with staffing at this flagship ‘Frog by Adam Handling’ restaurant in London’s Covent Garden but still needed chefs at newly opened The Loch & the Tyne in Old Windsor.
Emma Underwood, the general manager of the new restaurant called Pem, run by chef Sally Abé, said the hospitality world was used to staff shortages but that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit have created a ‘perfect storm.
She said, ‘The last year has been challenging for those working in restaurants, and it is with little surprise that they are now re-evaluating and changing their working life. Brexit and Covid travel restrictions mean that there are a fraction of workers coming to the UK from overseas to populate our teams.’
Underwood said that she thought to resolve this issue by reaching out to people who had not previously worked in hospitality, stating, “We need to, as an industry, continue to demonstrate how wonderful a career in hospitality is.”
‘We need to truly consider the people that work for us and ensure they are properly looked after and financially rewarded. The restaurant scene in London, and across the UK, is one of the most progressive and exciting in the whole world, and everyone should be singing about this. I am optimistic that this will settle down, that we will once again see busy restaurants with happy, full teams.”