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The numbers behind the hospitality industry’s staffing crisis

New research from Barclays Corporate Banking has shown exactly where the record vacancies in hospitality and leisure are, and how staff shortages could hinder the sector’s recovery.

The research, conducted in April of this year, found that 18% of front of house staff positions are vacant, while 20% of cleaning staff roles are unfilled. The report also found that 94% of hospitality and leisure businesses are struggling to recruit personnel, with particularly acute shortages in the East Midlands and east of England.

One solution to the shortages could be to hire Ukrainian refugees, a move which has particularly high support in the east of England (87% in favour), Northern Ireland (87%) and Scotland (86%).

For those who do still work in the sector though, there is the prospect of higher salaries and more flexible working arrangements (a quarter of employers surveyed intend to make the latter permanent). Bar staff are expected to earn 7.3% more this year than in 2021, with projected average 2022 earnings of £16,828.

A similar percentage increase is anticipated across the board in other positions, such as kitchen staff. Senior managers are expected to receive the biggest boost, with a 7.7% increase – equivalent to £2,014 a year for a full-time worker.

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The hospitality and leisure industry was undoubtedly one of the hardest hit by prolonged periods of lockdown during the pandemic. In the early part of 2022 however, in a society free from restrictions, the sector enjoyed strong sales, leaving many confident about their growth prospects.”

Indeed, a 30.5% rise in revenue from pre-pandemic levels is anticipated. Profit margins are now at 41.3% on average, compared to 39.1% pre-pandemic, which has enabled the pay rises across the sector.

The pandemic has profoundly changed the way restaurants operate beyond employment. 30% continue to diversify by offering home delivery options, such as meal kits, while 42% of pubs have introduced additional payment terminals. There is also growing acceptance of alternative payment methods, such as Apple Pay.

However, aside from businesses being short-staffed, Saul says that there are further difficulties on the horizon: “The worsening cost-of-living crisis is now a serious threat to that growth, with the latest Barclaycard Consumer Spending Index showing that restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs have all seen a slight decline in May 2022, compared to the month before.”

Steps to address the staffing crisis were outlined in UK Hospitality’s workforce strategy, which was published last month.

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