One in six hospitality jobs currently lie vacant, the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth indicates, triggering intense competition among firms to recruit and retain team members.

pub bar staff

The third-quarter poll highlights the industry’s mounting labour crisis, with 96% of business leaders now envisaging shortages in either front or back of house roles, and nearly three quarters (73%) in both.

Fewer than one in five (18%) leaders feel confident about their recruitment and retention over the next 12 months — a dramatic collapse from the 67% who felt confident in the last Business Confidence Survey just three months ago.

Three in five (59%) leaders now anticipate hiring staff at a greater rate than usual this year, up by 15 percentage points from the last survey. Labour has been further hit by absences, with leaders reporting that an average of 6% of staff are currently in isolation and unable to work.

The shortage of staff is prompting business leaders to step up efforts to attract and keep hold of staff. Three-quarters say they have offered better pay (76%) and stepped up their levels of communication (75%) as part of their retention strategies, while two-thirds have tried to cultivate the right working culture (67%) and support staff wellbeing and mental health (66%).

The use of pay as a retention tool is rapidly inflating wage bills across the hospitality sector, which already faces mounting food, drink, supply, and utility costs. Leaders who have increased pay have done so by an average of 11% for current staff, and by 13% for newly hired team members.

‘Hospitality is nothing without people’

Karl Chessel, CGA’s director, hospitality and food, EMEA, said: “These figures illustrate the full scale of hospitality’s recruitment and retention crisis. “Thousands of businesses are now critically short of staff, while many of those who have sufficient labour face a fight to keep hold of it.

“Gaps at front and back of house and fast-rising wage costs threaten to derail the industry’s recovery, and sustained, targeted government support is now urgently needed to tackle the problem.”

Sebastien Sepierre, managing director EMEA at Fourth, added: “Hospitality is nothing without people, and the sector is in a desperate battle to find the staff it needs to rebuild after a devastating 18 months.

“With the right business landscape, hospitality has the potential to drive the UK’s economic recovery. But the current operational environment is extremely tough and these results lay bare the workforce challenges senior leaders must solve, especially in light of the key festive trading period on the horizon.”

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