Staff shortages force a third of hospitality firms to cut opening hours

Almost a third of UK hospitality businesses have been forced to cut opening hours over the Christmas period due to a shortage of labour, with many also choosing to close altogether on some days they would otherwise have opened.

New data for UKHospitality in its latest Future Shock report, in partnership with CGA by NielsenIQ, also shows the toll labour shortages have taken on business confidence, with 60% of business leaders no longer confident about recruitment.

The report reveals that more than a third of businesses (35%) plan to simplify menus, 32% have been forced to reduce their opening hours and 13% have reduced opening days, all because of staffing shortages.

The membership organisation for the sector, UKHospitality, is calling on the government to implement a ‘two-phase’ approach to tackle the issue, with changes to the immigration system and reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy. In particular, it urges an expansion of the youth mobility scheme to include EU member states, and abolishing the Immigration Skills Charge which it describes as a punitive measure that is an additional charge on top of other visa requirements and deters would-be applicants.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive at UKHospitality, said: “The statistics in the report lay bare the real-life impact on businesses and consumers as a result of not having enough staff. It’s so disappointing that businesses are having to go to such lengths such as simplifying menus and reducing trading hours to deal with this. It’s also doing the consumer a disservice, limiting choice and availability.

“There are very simple measures available to the government that can free up the immigration system and make a huge difference to business. Expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme to the EU27, for example, would do wonders to add good numbers of people to the available labour pool.

“Implementing these measures – alongside reform of the Apprenticeship Levy to best develop our own talent – would help hospitality businesses no end. With the right staffing resource, hospitality can really drive growth, offer customers an enhanced experience and help lift up the economy.”

Writing in this edition of Future Shock, Karl Chessell, director of hospitality operators and food at CGA, said: “CGA’s data shows us that the industry has been resilient and resourceful in the face of ferocious headwinds, with managed groups’ sales consistently ahead of pre-Covid levels.

“However, strong underlying demand is being compromised by a storm of cost and labour issues. As we see in this report, a shortage of labour is compromising trading for restaurants, pubs and bars and driving up pay. All these issues have hurt business confidence and profitability ahead of the crucial Christmas and New Year trading period.”

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