St Austell chief executive Kevin Georgel has said it is essential hospitality re-opens on 21st June as the industry struggles to get back on its feet.
Kevin Georgel. Photograph: St Austell Brewery
Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, he said these were a critical few days as hospitality awaited clarity on full re-opening. The government is due to announce the next stage of the roadmap on Monday (14th June).
Mr Gerorgel said: “The industry’s been hanging on for 21st June for many, many months. It’s something that’s absolutely critical… To push the date [forward] is going to actually undermine the confidence in the sector, which is critical to get people to come to start to work in our great industry and build careers.
“Our call to the government, to Boris, is we’ve got to stick to 21st June. We really need that certainty for our sector.”
He was very concerned about the staff shortages which are prevalent throughout hospitality at the moment. “We’re about 25% down on the teams that we need at this moment in time to meet the demand that we’re expecting over the summer,” he said.
“We have an unprecedented situation where we have demand growing, because of staycations and everybody holidaying in the UK this year, which is very positive, but the counter to that is that we simply cannot find enough people to meet that demand over the summer, which is very frustrating as we look to recover from the ravages of the pandemic.”
Asked where all the workers had gone, he cited a combination of factors. Non-UK nationals had returned home for a variety of reasons, but there was also a confidence issue around hospitality, which he felt the government could help with as the sector rebuilds, particularly when it comes to attracting young people.
“We provide great career opportunities, we just need to get the confidence. And that’s about delivering on the roadmap and giving security and stability to our sector going forward, which is critical over the coming weeks and months.”
Another factor, he said, was accommodation. “In the South West we have an issue with housing. So even if we can find people from outside of the region, finding accommodation for them at this particular moment is really, really challenging.”
He was asked whether the furlough scheme had been a good thing, keeping people in place so they could be brought back, or whether it had had the effect of allowing people to go off and find other jobs so that they couldn’t be brought back.
Mr Georgel said: “I think, from a hospitality industry perspective, we’d have to say that furlough overall has been tremendous in terms of enabling us to look after the vast majority of our people. But, I think there is a risk now that the furlough scheme is slightly distorting the labour market.
“Our challenge is how do we find a way through that if we’ve got people who are on furlough who are doing second jobs or are sat on furlough where actually their job doesn’t exist. There is a challenge about how furlough plays out over the coming months, given that we now have a national labour shortage.”
He agreed that the stopping of furlough could free up workers for his business.