UK hospitality staffing shortages 'less severe' than other countries, claims report

By Restaurant

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UK hospitality staffing shortages are 'less severe' than other countries according to a new report

Related tags Staff Staffing Hospitality Recruitment Lightspeed

The UK hospitality sector has high staff retention levels compared to other European countries despite the current staffing crisis it faces, according to new research.

UK hospitality businesses are the least likely to report hiring as their biggest challenge compared with those in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the US, data from Lightspeed’s new Global State of Hospitality Report ​shows.

The Netherlands and Germany report hiring staff as their biggest challenge, with 29% of businesses stating it as their main concern, followed by Canada (25%), Australia 924%), The US (23%) and France (21%). Only 18% of UK hospitality businesses state that hiring staff was the biggest challenge

A combination of factors including Brexit, Covid, and the country’s cost-of-living crisis, have shouldered the blame for staffing issues – from hiring to retention – in the UK hospitality sector. Yet while all economies are suffering to some extent, staffing in the UK is in better shape than many had anticipated, says the report.

It finds that UK restaurants have considerably less of an issue with staff retention than the USA or Australia, with 34% of UK businesses reporting they have ‘struggled to retain staff’, compared with 50% in the US, and 42% in Australia.  

The picture is much the same in Europe, where the UK is marginally ahead of its EU neighbours, Germany and The Netherlands, with only France reporting higher staff retention figures.  
Of the countries analysed by Lightspeed, UK hospitality businesses reported the second highest ability to maintain staffing levels (30%) behind only Germany (31%). The US had the most issues with maintaining staff levels.

“There can be no doubt that the UK’s world-renowned hospitality sector has suffered due to a number of factors beyond its control. However, it is in no worse of a position – arguably much better – than other countries,” says Peter Dougherty, GM of hospitality at Lightspeed.

“This news offers little in the way of solace to the sector; the data does, after all, show fairly high levels of staffing struggles. But it is interesting nonetheless that even accounting for a factor unique to the country – Brexit – these struggles are comparable to other countries.”

Staff numbers remain a challenge

The biggest staffing issue for UK hospitality businesses is staffing numbers, with 43% reporting they are operating with fewer staff than needed – an average among all countries surveyed. In Germany, this figure is 54%, while in the Netherlands it is 33%.

German hospitality businesses have the highest staff shortages but are also the least likely to have increased wages to improve hiring and retention. Instead, they were the most likely to have reduced their opening hours in response to staffing shortages. By contrast, UK hospitality businesses’ likelihood to have increased wages is comparable to every nation except the US and the Netherlands. However, UK businesses were most unlikely – by considerable margin – to have reduced hours in response to staffing shortages.

This finding is not to say that restaurants in the UK are not reducing their opening hours, says Lightspeed, which cites a recent report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) that found that hospitality businesses were more likely than any other industry to say they plan to cut trading by at least two days per week in November 2022 – but as a response to spiralling energy costs, rather than staffing issues.

Rising costs the biggest issue for UK companies

Rising costs and supply issues are the biggest challenges UK restaurants face, with 47% citing that as a reason. This is ahead of France and Germany (41%), with US companies least affected by rising costs, with only 30% mentioning it as a main challenge.

Among UK businesses, 71% say their menu pricing has become more difficult to manage, while 62% have changed their menu offering to improve margins, and 45% report using lower-cost ingredients to improve their finances. A majority (69%) raised their menu prices in 2022.

“It is clear that while staffing is comparable to other major economies, rising costs in the UK are far more acute, and efficiencies will need to be made,” adds Dougherty.

“Lightspeed will therefore continue to provide innovative, omnichannel solutions that will help our merchants streamline their operations and provide even greater experiences for their customers”

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