UK restaurateurs blame labor shortages as they cut services
Restaurant owners across the UK have cut lunch and dinner services and raised wages, citing a ‘catastrophic’ labor shortage caused by Brexit and the aftermath of the pandemic.
Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jnr said on Wednesday he was forced to stop serving lunch and cut the menu from 12 choices per course to a tasting menu and three other options at his Mayfair Le Gavroche restaurant.
Bibendum, another Michelin-starred London restaurant, has said it will close on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, while Hawksmoor, which operates eight restaurants in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, has limited its opening hours to the busiest hours .
Others in the industry, including MWEat, which owns Indian restaurant Veeraswamy in London and casual dining chain Masala Zone, and Gaucho restaurants have increased salaries in some positions by 10-15%. D&D Restaurants, which operate 38 locations in London, Manchester and Leeds, said they were asking staff to work overtime.
“It’s disheartening and heartbreaking, but we just can’t go on like this. This is a serious shortage of staff, not just chefs, but also reception, ”said Roux, adding that the lack of experienced chefs – a side effect of Brexit – was“ absolutely catastrophic ”for them. restaurateurs.
Pressure to recruit has increased over the past two months as hotel companies across the UK scrambled to find staff to meet surprisingly high reopening demand and to fill in the gaps left by workers who are returned to their country of origin due to Brexit and the pandemic.
S4Labour, the hotel technology provider, said the industry’s revenue since the restrictions were lifted in May had increased by a third compared to the same period in May 2019 and that 29% of hotel staff had left the workforce. since February of last year.
Indeed, a recruiting firm said the number of job postings for food preparation positions had increased by 608% since the government announced its roadmap to ease lockdowns in February and was now 16. % higher than in February 2020, before the pandemic.
The shortages prompted Tim Martin, chairman of the JD Wetherspoon advertising group and a prominent Brexiter, to suggest on Tuesday that the government adopt “some sort of preferential visa system for EU workers, justified by ‘proximity’,” an idea taken up by many other operators throughout the industry.
UKHospitality, the trade body, last week called on ministers to introduce “an Australian-style visa regime” to allow non-native workers who do not meet Britain’s post-Brexit points-based system to be employed .
However, the government flatly rejected such a suggestion on Wednesday.
“We want employers to focus on training and investing in our national workforce, especially those who need to find new jobs due to the impact of the measures needed to fight Covid-19 , rather than relying on foreign labor, ”the Interior Ministry said. mentionned.
“[Pubs and restaurants] cannot always say that the answer is to hire cheap foreign labor, ”said an assistant to Priti Patel, Minister of the Interior.
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Patel, who campaigned for Brexit in 2016 alongside Martin, has put in place an immigration system that favors skilled workers and does not offer preferential treatment to EU nationals.
The new rules, which came into effect on December 31 last year, with the end of the post-Brexit transition period, prohibit employers from hiring outside the UK for any position that does not require the equivalent to Level A qualifications. They also prohibit employers from bringing in foreign workers for most positions paying less than £ 25,600 per year.
Martin Williams, Managing Director of M Restaurants, owner of Gaucho, said: “When someone like Le Gavroche, which is an institution, closes for lunch, you have a serious problem. . . Unless the government changes its attitude towards visas, there will be a big problem, but the hospitality industry has a responsibility to be a good employer as well. ”