Labour pains: Investigating hospitality’s looming recruitment crisis

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Minding the gap: A squeeze on high quality staff has caused much discomfort in some quarters of the hospitality sector
Minding the gap: A squeeze on high quality staff has caused much discomfort in some quarters of the hospitality sector

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The rapid growth of the hospitality sector, combined with a rise in standards, has created a widening skills gap with many businesses now struggling to find and retain new staff. But where do the problems lie?

A BigHospitality news story earlier this week indicated that hotels, restaurants and pubs across the UK are fast-approaching the ‘workforce cliff’,​ with young people and older workers not being given enough incentive to enter a career in hospitality.

But the findings of a Readers’ Poll included within that story point to another issue. When asked where the recruitment issues lie, the overwhelming response centred on the work ethic of young people​, with 42 per cent of BigHospitality readers agreeing with the claim that ‘the work ethic is not the same as it used to be’.

Second in the poll was a statement in line with the views of McDonald’s chief people officer David Fairhurst; with 21 per cent of readers echoing Fairhurst’s view that business owners​ should in fact be more proactive in their efforts to attract new talent.

Readers' Poll (scroll down to vote)


And then there’s the debate about the education system​. At a BigHospitality panel discussion during the Restaurant Show​ back in 2012, Gary Hunter - head of culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway college – said the food curriculum needs to be re-energised. And 17 per cent of our readers are now inclined to agree.

Twitter debate

So, we took to Twitter, and the response was varied. Our first response to the poll came from Spitalfields-based Italian wine bar and kitchen The Super Tuscan, who said the solution was simple.

Steak restaurant group Hawksmoor, which was last year ranked the best hospitality company in the UK to work for​ by The Sunday Times, joined the conversation, adding that it is the sheer growth of the hospitality sector that is creating the skills gap.

A member of the Institute of Hospitality - @Jose_Esq - then gave the opinion that the onus is on hospitality businesses to offer the right incentives for new staff.

Aoife Morris, HR and recruitment manager with the ETM Group, and head chef Adam Baker agreed with Jose, adding that HR in hospitality is ‘old school’

Some insightful concluding tweets then came from the Hospitality Guild, which brings together industry bodies, businesses and individuals to promote training, growth, innovation and careers across the sector. The Guild primarily agreed with Fairhurst from McDonald’s; claiming that the industry must work together to tackle the recruitment challenge.

Your opinion

Of course, the recruitment challenge cannot be pinned down to a single problem; there are as number of factors conspiring against the industry’s employment efforts, and principle among them is success. The hospitality industry is expected to grow by almost 2 per cent this year against a backdrop of stagnant economic growth in nearly every other sector. As many as 660,000 new hospitality positions will need to be filled by 2020 – more than the current population of Manchester.

But our recent coverage of the on-going recruitment challenge, combined with the findings of this Readers Poll and Twitter debate; indicate that there are two intertwined issues at play – young people arguably don’t have the same work ethic; but it is the responsibility of hospitality businesses to change that, by working together and shouting about the attractiveness of hospitality as a challenging, rewarding and meaningful career option, for all ages.

So... What do you think? Has the issue of finding new staff members been a real issue for your business? Where do you think the problem lies; what needs to be done to ensure more talent is breaking through across the hospitality industry? There's still time to cast your vote in our readers’ poll at the bottom of this article.

Are you looking for a job in hospitality? Or perhaps you want to hire a new employee for a key position within your company? Our jobs website -​ - specialises in vacancies across restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs and clubs.


Finding new staff: Where do the problems lie?

  • Single-dish and fast-casual restaurants: Fewer people are being trained on the job and skills are limited.

  • Education system: The food curriculum needs to be re-energised.

  • Government: More money should be provided to support hospitality training.

  • The media: TV chefs and cooking programs give young people the wrong impression.

  • Young people: The work ethic is not the same as it used to be.

  • Business owners: Should be more proactive in their efforts to attract new talent.


Related topics: People, Recruitment & training

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1 comment

floored survey

Posted by ray hart,

I have worked in this industry for over 40 years and I am now in education where I do see some poor work ethic's, but the majority work hard and try and learn new methods of cooking, but when I see my students go looking for work and they come back saying they have been offered work of 12-14 hour days and for a paltry amount of money (£8,000 - £9,000 per Annam) I start to think, does the industry want new up and coming chefs who have a good knowledge of the industry but needs the knowledge polished and refined by the industry, or does the industry just want to employ immigrants who will willing work here for a lower wage as it is better than their homeland pay

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