As we inch closer to leaving the European Union, recruitment pressures in the hospitality industry are undeniably growing. Since the vote to leave the EU on 23rdJune 2016, the number of EU workers coming to the UK has fallen drastically.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently reported a record drop in the number of EU nationals working in the UK since records began in 1997, with the number of EU workers here falling by 86,000 to 2.28 million people.

A further blow to the hospitality sector comes in the government’s recent post-Brexit immigration report which looks to prioritise high-skilled workers.

While the report recommends an end to the cap on the number of tier-2 visas (the route for skilled workers who are offered a job in the UK), the Migration Advisory Committee recommend maintaining a minimum salary threshold of £30,000, which is more than a catering professional will earn.


This is all bad news for the hospitality industry, which currently relies heavily on EU workers. Understaffing will cause a massive problem to operational efficiency and ultimately to client satisfaction. It goes without saying that poor customer experience is a killer for businesses in the hospitality sector.

So, what can businesses in the hospitality sector do to circumvent the potential staffing crisis? Especially since they are already feeling the pinch.

The most important focus has to be on staff retention and attracting new talent within the UK. Hospitality businesses need to work on making their company a place where people want to work. It is this aspect of staffing that is now more important than ever.

Staffing crisis? Here’s how the hospitality industry needs to respond:

Provide training opportunities

A comprehensive training programme not only benefits staff, it underpins exceptional customer service. It is good for the morale and motivation of employees, it is good for customers and it is good for profit. Employees who are properly trained are more confident and more able to do their job efficiently and effectively.

Comprehensive training and the opportunity for progression also sends the message to employees that they are valued, appreciated and that you believe in them. Opportunities and training bring greater job satisfaction and improve staff retention rates.

Improve culture

The hospitality industry isn’t renowned for its salaries (many hotels, restaurants, bars and catering outfits pay their staff the minimum wage). However, there has been an increase in hospitality sector salaries more recently as employers push to attract candidates in anticipation of the Brexit staff shortage.

One sure way businesses can make themselves more attractive as employers is to improve culture. Toxic culture results in high staff turnover. Demotivated unhappy staff don’t stick around for long.

The opposite applies to positive work cultures where employees are engaged with the values and vision of the business they work in. Better performance and retention, along with lower staff turnover has a positive impact on customer ratings. Not only does a good culture help to retain staff, customers can see it too.

More and more consumers are paying attention to the culture of businesses. Millennials in particular seem to care more about the ethics behind a brand. A recent report in the Financial Times on How millennials became the world’s most powerful consumers, states that because of millennial tastes, organic, natural and non-GMO are crystallising fast.

Make hospitality an attractive career choice

Hospitality and Tourism is currently the fourth largest business sector in the UK. According to The Hospitality Professionals Association (HOPSA), the sector contributes £143billion to the UK economy and employs a total of 4.49 million people.

The uncertainty of Brexit is a cause for concern in the hospitality industry in particular because of its current reliance on EU workers. HOPSA members are concerned about how roles in the hospitality industry are perceived by UK workers (namely as jobs rather than careers).

Conversely, many continental workers see hospitality roles as viable careers with the possibility of lifelong progression.

The challenge for the hospitality sector now is to change the perception of UK workers. To achieve this, they will need to diversify recruitment programmes. Some businesses are already rising to the challenge. In a survey* launched by Planday and conducted by YouGov on Brexit and the hospitality industry, some firms reported they are Brexit ready and are already taking the following action:

  • Training or upskilling staff
  • Looking at actively recruiting from different markets like older employees or working parents
  • Increasing salaries or benefits for staff
  • Looking at introducing more flexibility to appeal to more workers

*The survey was directed at both managers and workers in the hospitality industry.

Offer flexible working

Flexible working is another way for businesses to attract and retain staff. Staff in the hospitality industry tend to move around a lot to fit shift work in with the commitment of family life, caring commitments, lifestyle choices and study.

In an interview with The Independent, Stuart Gillies, Chief Executive of the Gordon Ramsay Group, explained they are taking steps to retain staff by offering more flexibility with shifts. Two thirds of the Gordon Ramsey Group workforce are from other EU states.


There is little doubt that the UK’s hospitality industry is facing a Brexit staffing crisis. Hospitality businesses will need to address this by offering more exciting career opportunities, appealing to the UK workforce and creating a culture that attracts and retains staff. It will be a challenge, but is essential for the UK economy, and arguably the Government should be doing more to help the hospitality industry.

Giving staff more training and opportunities is a good place to start.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.