British Restaurants Are Battling a Staff Crisis, Worsened by Brexit

The problem is not just Britain’s stricter immigration regulations. Other workers in the UK and elsewhere have left the hospitality industry in search of more stable employment, according to Kate Shoesmith, assistant director of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, which represents recruitment companies and agencies.

Daily business briefing

Updated

June 11, 2021 at 8:36 a.m. ET

Restaurant and hotel workers unable to work from home have been drawn to unexpected changes in lockdown rules that dragged them in and out of work on short notice. Despite the success of the UK vaccination program, the delta coronavirus variant threatens to delay the full lifting of social distancing restrictions in England later this month.

Some people “aren’t confident there won’t be another lockdown,” Ms. Shoesmith said.

Many workers have moved to less strenuous jobs that don’t require long nights and long shifts, such as in call centers, retail stores, or other customer service functions. Adecco, a large recruitment agency, has asked tens of thousands of job seekers to measure their interest in working in the hospitality industry. Only 1 percent answered.

Ms. Shoesmith said recruiters expect some EU citizens to return to the UK at some point to work, “but the vast majority will not; that is the anticipation. “

To fill this void, there is a common belief that the hospitality industry needs to be an attractive career for Brits that is worth attaining with training and career opportunities. At the moment, however, this work is often viewed as “in between,” as Ms. Shoesmith put it.

UKHospitality has partnered with work coaches in government job centers. It wants them to prioritize hospitality as the “job of choice” and think beyond entry-level or front-of-house positions.

Until then, the labor shortage will drag countless companies out.

In more than three decades in the industry, Hillbrooke Hotels director John Crompton said he had never seen a staff shortage like this. The company, which has four “quirky luxury hotels and inns” in the east and south of England, must employ at least 50 employees.