Staffing proves to be the biggest challenge as hospitality reopens

Half of employers (50%) say they lack enough trained or experienced staff to fully reopen, while almost two-thirds (62.5%) have found some staff being unable or unwilling to return to work, according to research by workforce management specialist Bizimply.

The figures suggest that employees, rather than customers, are the biggest challenge facing hospitality businesses as the sector reopens.

The new Reopening Expectations and Challenges survey confirms that many operators are struggling to find enough experienced staff, with 25% saying recruiting shift and team leaders was their biggest issue, and 22% highlighting chef recruitment.

Over 80% have made changes to their recruitment and training procedures to address post-lockdown staff requirements. In addition, 31.3% of employers have employed new staff in order to reopen, and 25% have increased investment in staff training.

The findings tally with the views of trade body UKHospitality, which has flagged up the challenge in terms of both the total number of available employees, after many EU citizens left the UK to return to their home countries, as well as skills shortages in specific areas.

The Bizimply survey shows that the vast majority of operators, more than 90%, also expect some labour-intensive Covid prevention measures, such as table-only service and social distancing, to be a requirement beyond the 21st June date set by the Government.

In addition, hospitality businesses are showing an increased reluctance to "police" customers' Covid status on behalf of the authorities. Only 25% of businesses said they would welcome a proof-of-vaccine or vaccine passport scheme, compared to 53% who said they supported a scheme pre-opening, in a Bizimply survey in February.

Bizimply CEO Conor Shaw says: "Our survey shows that the scale of the employment challenge facing the UK hospitality sector shouldn't be underestimated. Most customers have been in a forgiving mood in the early weeks of reopening, but they won't accept poor or slow service for too long.

"Equally, the realities of day-to-day trading with COVID measures in place has clearly hardened operators against the idea of a proof-of-vaccine scheme. The number who do not want to be required to check customers' vaccine status has increased significantly since hospitality reopened."

The findings also reveals how a third (31.3%) of hospitality employers have increased investment in technology, such as remote ordering and payment, in order to reopen.