A letter from the Director - How Covid has impacted the Hospitality Industry

Mark shares his thoughts on the Hospitality Industry and the impact of COVID.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has impacted the hospitality industry in ways we could never have imagined. With businesses being forced to close for extended periods it’s no surprise that we find ourselves in a staffing crisis. 

The main question we need to ask ourselves is how can we solve this? 

First, we need to look back. 

Historically the hospitality industry has been known for low wages and requiring next to no skills to enter. If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party for several people you know this isn’t exactly true. This perception of the industry means that it is often overlooked. The industry has always suffered from a high turnover rate, but due to higher staffing numbers, the gaps were easy to plug. According to statistics, the average length of employment for hospitality workers at an individual business is around 12 months. With such short time frames, businesses focused on high numbers of staff to cope with continuous change.

The L-word.

In this case, I mean Lockdown, although Valentine's day is close.

Covid caused a global lockdown, and while the public stayed home to keep each other safe. Business owners had to pivot at an exponential pace. Restaurants and bars had to adapt, take away processes implemented, and more alfresco dining during the easing of lockdown. Even with this flexibility and forward-thinking, staffing issues were still causing concern.

Throughout lockdown, the population's mindset changed and many people re-skilled and changed careers. Great for them, not for the hospitality industry. Due to these changes businesses have had to think seriously about the previous perception of hospitality. 

Around 96% of businesses were seeing staff shortages for some roles. Three-quarters of businesses in the hospitality industry are increasing their salary in the hopes of attracting and retaining more staff. 

The potential for poaching may increase as businesses seek to fill their rotas. A better pay packet may not be the answer to the staffing crisis. Focus on work/life balance has been a huge topic of discussion. Additional employee benefits may help in attracting new blood into the industry. Businesses may have to reconsider their approach and diversify their requirements. Hiring older employees can help bridge the staffing gap. 

Last summer the Government released its Hospitality Strategy which hoped to build back Restaurants and Pubs in the aftermath of the pandemic. The strategy set out measures that included highlighting opportunities for job seekers in the hospitality industry. With dedicated work coaches through the DWP, the intention was to address the continuing staff crisis. Additional funding equalling a £352 billion package of economic support and guidance was set out to help ease businesses back into normality. 

What’s the answer? 

2022 will be an interesting and decisive year for the Hospitality industry. Its ability to adapt and address old habits will be the make or break for many businesses. A combination of forward-thinking, employee benefits, and a better work environment should help retain and attract new employees. Looking over the pandemic and assessing the social habits will also play a part in how the Hospitality industry continues to evolve.