Viewpoint: we must learn lessons from Europe to improve hospitality's staffing crisis

16 December 2021
Viewpoint: we must learn lessons from Europe to improve hospitality's staffing crisis

Hospitality work is taken more seriously on the continent, so the UK must adopt a new attitude if we are to keep going, says Vlad Krupa.

More must be done to help hospitality workers in the UK feel supported to enjoy long and successful careers in the sector. Hospitality roles are respected, even coveted, across Europe, where working in the sector is viewed as a serious profession rather than a short-term means of making some money.

In contrast, trade body UK Hospitality estimates that two-fifths of British hospitality venues will have to close, partially or completely, due to ongoing staff shortages. Businesses are having to adapt their approach to attracting and retaining recruits, with three-quarters of pub and restaurant bosses planning to increase pay. Improving the esteem of hospitality roles, however, will be just as important, and arguably better for the sector in the long run.

Succession planning

More than two million people work in the UK hospitality sector, according to government statistics, but how many of those would describe their job as a genuine career? Very few have probably been involved in succession planning, where potential leaders are identified and supported to develop so they can move into more senior roles. If more businesses adopted this approach, it would go a long way to improving the appeal of careers in hospitality.

In addition, the sector would be more likely to retain its workers if it offered formalised training programmes and apprenticeship schemes, to reflect the status of hospitality jobs as highly skilled roles. Beyond this, establishing a dedicated educational institution in the UK, similar to the ESO Euroschool Hotel Academy on the continent, would encourage even more people to pursue long-lasting careers in hospitality.

Valuable training

True to its name, continuing professional development should empower hospitality workers to develop the skills which most interest them. At Burgh Island hotel, for instance, we have guided staff in sustainability practices, alongside installing solar panels to generate clean energy, which help us keep the hotel's carbon footprint to a minimum.

Skills such as this are not only highly relevant to the running of a hospitality business, but they are also notable life skills which are readily transferable to other roles. If staff feel they are being valued as people rather than just workers, then they will be far more likely to stick around.

Learning from Europe

In the long term, learning from the European hospitality industry will benefit the UK because it will build resilience against the sort of staffing situation which many businesses are grappling with today. Employers who invest in their workers will enjoy considerable returns, as recruits will be more inclined to stay in the sector for longer, lending the skills they have learned throughout their careers.

But for many businesses, such long-term improvement will mean little without support in the short term to prevent them from closing. With industry giants calling on the government to introduce visa schemes for EU workers post-Brexit, it may be worth considering what enticements UK hospitality could offer. Employment benefits such as international visas could be key to attracting top talent from overseas, helping UK hospitality to learn from Europe on a personal level as well as an institutional one.

Vlad Krupa is director of guest relations at Burgh Island hotel

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