'It's on a knife-edge': Hospitality held back due to staff shortages

Customers enjoying the garden at the Lion at Thurne last summer July 2019 before the lockdown. The l

Customers enjoying the garden at the Lion at Thurne last summer July 2019 before the lockdown. The landlord is looking at ways to start trading again while all staff are furloughed and social distancing remains in place Picture: Liz Coates - Credit: Archant

The upcoming summer season has never been so pivotal for the hospitality sector - and yet many businesses are being held back by a lack of staff. 

Ricky Malt is the owner of The Lion at Thurne and The White Horse Inn at Neatishead, and is lucky enough to be inundated with customers - but said staff shortages are taking a toll on the team. 

He said: "It's a perfect storm. The sun's out, the locals fancy a pint, we've got loads of tourists visiting. We did 80 meals in 15 minutes when we opened for lunchtime this week."

Mr Malt has also seen groups of 30 arriving with no booking and hoping to be seated immediately. 

He said: "It's wonderful to be so busy and we're so thankful for that, but then we're hiring but people aren't turning up - for interviews or on their start date.

"We've had someone sign a contract and then a few days before just stopped replying to emails and calls - they never showed. It's a massive toll on the mental health of the current team.

"We are luckier than most - there are other places which can't open because they haven't got any staff, the industry is on a knife-edge."

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Tom Ginn, owner of Bread Hospitality, a recruitment agency which specialises in hospitality hiring, said: "There was a problem with staff shortages before the pandemic which is important to remember - this isn't a new thing. 

Tom Ginn

Tom Ginn - Credit: Bread Hospitality

"What we're finding is that places are hiking their salaries up to try and get people in the kitchen - but that's not actually working. What is working is redressing the work-life balance - if people are being offered a four day week, or a couple of evenings off. 

"In lockdown people realised they wanted to spend more time with their partners and families and that has shifted a lot of people's priorities. 

"I would say for junior chefs and people new to the industry there is the opportunity for fast-track promotions because there are so many roles available."