Restaurants temporarily close and offer health insurance to tackle staff shortages

12 January 2023 by
Restaurants temporarily close and offer health insurance to tackle staff shortages

Restaurants are temporarily closing, reducing menu sizes, and introducing more staff benefits to tackle ongoing recruitment issues

Markus Thesleff, founder of Mexican Japanese restaurant Los Mochis in London's Notting Hill, told The Caterer that the shortage of chefs and waiters had posed a "particularly acute problem" for his business since it launched in 2021.

He said: "It's been a real struggle, especially as a new operator with a new brand opening straight out of Covid which has been further complicated by both our style of cuisine and the service standards we expect to provide."

As part of his efforts to attract more people, Thesleff has introduced full BUPA medical insurance for all full-time staff who pass their probation.

He said that inflationary pressures and spiralling wages could soften the impact of staff shortages in the long term, adding: "The troubles in the economy overall should start to help us soon, since more places go under it means more people becoming available on the job market."

Adriano Cattaneo, group executive chef of the eight-strong LPM Restaurant & Bar group, which has a site in London's Mayfair, reduced trading hours, stopped offering delivery and reviewed wages before resorting to simplifying menus in response to staff shortages.

He said: "We kept signature dishes that people love us for, removed low selling or low margin items, while trying to incorporate some novelty with some seasonal [dishes] so guests wouldn't be bored."

Cattaneo has seen improvements in staffing levels over the past six months but said that "loyalty and commitment to the job is a lot less than it used to be [in hospitality]".

Darleys Restaurant and Terrace in Derby announced it was temporarily closing on New Year's Eve due to staff shortages but will now reopen on 15 January after seeing an uptick in job applications.

Co-owner Robert Ellis said: "We've probably got about 15-20 applicants now [for] head chefs and commis [with some] still coming in. We're getting a lot of positive feedback. Obviously, we want to open up again as soon as we can, full-time, so we're ploughing all our hours into it."

He said he suspected the rise in applicants was partially due to January being a month where "chefs seem to move around". Ellis no longer advertises the yearly salary figure in job listings and said this should be discussed with each candidate at interview.

Ellis had previously considered hiring agency chefs to keep the business open throughout the winter months but concluded that things would get "very awkward" because there would be a different chef each day.

He added: "We just need a permanent decent team in there, that's what we're concentrating on doing now. We're not worried, but we just want to provide that nice level of food that we've become known for without compromise."

Sam Harrison, owner of Sam's Riverside in London's Hammersmith, said he had also received "several good applications" for both front of house and kitchen roles for "the first time in a long time".

He said: "There is no doubt there is tough trading ahead this winter, but I actually feel positive about the future."

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