EU hospitality workers – how would we fill the gap?

As Brexit negotiations continue, throw up controversy and falter, the British Hospitality Association has once again stated that hotels and restaurants could go out of business if staff from EU countries are forced to leave the country.

Dire warnings include the industry losing up to 60,000 staff a year, only 1 in 50 applicants for jobs in well-known coffee shop chains being British, and hospitality businesses needing up to 10 years to replace EU staff. And worryingly, hospitality businesses already have more job vacancies than any other sector in the UK.

How has it come to this?

Go to Spain and watch a waiter at work. He owns the floor. He takes orders, doesn’t have to write anything down and brings the right food to the right person first time. Sit in a coffee bar in Italy. The barista loves her work – she is cool, she knows all her customers by name and she makes the meanest coffee you ever tasted. Then have a meal in a Greek taverna, where the family runs the place like clockwork.

In these countries, like many others, hospitality is a serious career choice – jobs are valued, sought after and respected, and the staff take great pride in their work. A hospitality and/or catering qualification is usually mandatory, employees are contracted and it is often a career for life. In Britain, conversely, where employment laws are much more flexible, hospitality is often seen as casual work –  great as a part-time option for young people at school or in further education, but not much beyond that. This can lead to a disinterested, disaffected level of service, which in turn discredits the industry.

Admittedly, a job in hospitality involves serious graft. Workers spend many hours on their feet, deal with demanding customers, and in our increasingly fast-paced work, the pressure to provide a quick yet efficient service can be exhausting.

So, how can we make hospitality a more attractive proposition?

  • Proper contracts: Too many hospitality staff are on controversial zero hours contracts, so more secure employment which offers paid holidays, sickness leave and other benefits would be great start. New employees immediately feel well looked after and appreciated
  • Training: Never underestimate the power of a personalised induction programme and ongoing training and development. With imagination and creativity it needn’t cost the earth, and instead will reduce staff turnover which always helps with profit
  • Skills: Hospitality workers can often be regarded as unskilled. In fact, employees such as chefs are highly skilled and many others require a huge dedication to quality and service, and a fierce work ethic. Give staff skills and they immediately feel more valuable and indispensable, and this is the image they will project onto customers, raising the profile of the industry
  • Widen your employee pool: Consider employing older and disabled people, who have historically struggled to find work and who may stay with you longer than younger people
  • Culture: It’s unrealistic to think that we can change a whole nation’s attitude towards an industry, but as business owners we can create a wonderful culture which staff want to buy into and commit to. A culture where each and every employee is cherished and looked after, and which is tangible to our customers

I love this industry. I’m passionate about it. I eat, sleep and breathe it. I’m proud to say I’ve worked in it my whole life, and have no intention of changing that. Let’s instil this mentality into up-and-coming talent to secure a fantastic future for us all.


Victus Consultancy is passionate about recruiting, training & developing catering and hospitality industry teams to promote and raise the profile of the hospitality and catering industry. Contact us if you’d like an industry expert to help you attract, retain, coach and mentor the very best people for the benefit of both your business and your customers.