Published 17 June 2021
by Adam Hyman
Hospitality needs a rebrand in the UK. CODE founder Adam Hyman looks at the long-standing industry dilemma around staffing
We’ve never really got hospitality in this country. It’s something parents often see as a stop-gap job for their little darling to do to earn some pocket money before they’re told that they should become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher. God forbid they choose to work in hospitality indefinitely, despite the fact whenever we switch on our TVs there’s likely to be some sort of programme on about food – Bake Off, Great British Menu, MasterChef, Saturday Morning Kitchen. Even the Big Sweary still gets lots of air time… yet it seems to be lost in translation when it comes to looking past the glamorous entertainment side of things and it being seen as an actual career. Yes, there’s the celeb-tinted appeal – no, most of us will never be Jamie Oliver nor have the bank balance to match – but unlike the X-Factor there is actually a lot that can be achieved in our industry beyond 15 minutes of fame.
As hospitality has started to reopen over the past month, the staffing crisis has come full circle. Pre-COVID we were seeing a serious shortage of hospitality staff thanks to the initial impacts of Brexit. The pandemic has intensified the issue with more Europeans (and workers from other nationalities) heading back home and not returning. Additionally, while restaurants, hotels and pubs remained shuttered, many industry folk found refuge in other industries and have subsequently been enticed to stay with better pay and working hours. I was told the other day that a certain online marketplace pays £50,000 a year to its delivery drivers…
Every operator I speak to – from the groups that top the leagues of best places to work to small independents – they are all hugely understaffed. Recruit and retain are the current buzzwords in the industry. Not only are venues offering their current staff financial rewards if they find suitable hires but over the past fortnight I’ve received newsletters from restaurateurs asking their customers to act as recruiters for them or if they’ve even considered a change of career themselves. The taped piece of A4 paper to the front window with “staff required” no longer suffices.
But what now? I think, in principle, it’s very simple: the service sector in this country has never been seen as an aspirational career path. There’s an underlying snobbery that if you’re working in a kitchen, cleaning a hotel room or clearing a table of dirty plates that you simply weren’t able to get what society deems a ‘proper’ job. We need to get out of this mindset. Our industry needs a rebrand. We must start to pay better. We need to improve working hours and staff wellbeing. We will always welcome staff from abroad but we must embrace hospitality as a viable and exciting career in this country. We need a brand overhaul. We need a figure head that unites us all. It’s the only way out from the current situation we find ourselves in. This industry will always be about people – we just need to find them now.