Almost half (43%) of hospitality workers remain on furlough even though the support scheme comes to an end this month, according to figures from software provider Fourth and Wi-Fi solutions firm Wireless Social.
According to the data, there has been an 18% drop in overall staff headcount compared to September last year, equating to 500,000 people (or almost one in five) losing their job in the sector since January.
Fourth's data, which has been aggregated from analysis of over 700 companies across the restaurant, pub, bar and QSR sectors, reveals that the pub sector workforce was 15% lower in September, compared to the previous year.
Quick service restaurants saw a 16% drop, and restaurants fell further, with a 19% drop. The hotel sector had the greatest fall in headcount compared to September last year, with a 20% reduction.
The total number of hours worked across the sector in September was 20,283,957, which is in line with the hours recorded in August – but 48% down when compared to September last year. The pub sector saw an 8% reduction in hours worked compared to August, while restaurant hours were down by 2%. The QSR and hotel sectors recorded higher levels of activity compared to August, increasing by 3% and 6% respectively.
Wireless Social's footfall data indicates there was a drop-off in traffic over the course of September, with the national average tracking at 39% below the pre-Covid level on Saturday 5 September, compared to 42% below the average on Saturday 26 September. The weekend of 3 October registered the lowest figures since early August, coming in at 46% below average levels.
Visitor traffic in Liverpool, which is one area under tighter restrictions, dropped to 60% below the pre-Covid average on Saturday 3 October, the lowest footfall has been since the hospitality sector began reopening in July. This is mirrored by Manchester, where traffic was 55% below the average over the same weekend.
Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: "September has been incredibly tough for hospitality businesses, as the sector has been hit by further challenging restrictions that have impacted trading and consumer confidence. The fact that nearly half of the workforce remain on furlough, with the closure of the scheme on 31 October is concerning.
"However, this is an extremely innovative and resilient sector, and it's vital that operators continue to think and act dynamically, particularly around the way they schedule labour to ensure they have the right number of team members in place, to deliver guests the experience they expect."
Julian Ross, chief executive of Wireless Social, said: "The fact that nationwide footfall remained consistent throughout September was an encouraging sign for our industry, however the latest round of government restrictions and the threat of more to come could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for some businesses. Our footfall data reveals the impact that these restrictions, with seemingly little scientific evidence to justify them, have had on visitor traffic, particularly at a time when businesses require as much support as possible."