Solutions To

The Staffing Crisis - A Different View

In the UK, the foodservice and hospitality sector and its supply chain are experiencing rising labour shortages with job vacancies at their highest levels since records began.  This is placing huge pressure on the sector with shortages covering the full breadth of the industry. ‘Solutions to the Staffing Crisis: A Different View’ with Ronan Harte, CEO, BaxterStorey, Tevin Tobun, Founder and CEO, GV Group, and Simon Boyle, Founder, Beyond Food and The Brigade Bar + Kitchen explored the challenges and potential solutions to the labour crisis.

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Arena’s second face-to-face event of the year hosted guests at the exceptional Brigade Bar & Kitchen on Tooley Street, London; an inspirational skills-based training restaurant which sits at the heart of the Beyond Food charity. Founded by chef, Simon Boyle, who began his seasoned chef career aged 16 at The Savoy, its purpose is to offer training opportunities that change lives.

The afternoon began with Simon’s inspiring story of how he founded the charity, his vision, and the people it supports. Alarmingly, homelessness has risen amongst young people by 49% since the pandemic and is expected to rise again to 95%, so organisations like Beyond Food are more important than ever before.

Guests enjoyed a stunning three-course meal prepared by the Brigade team, followed by a panel discussion on the biggest issue that currently faces the industry; the staffing crisis. Ronan Harte, CEO of BaxterStorey and Tevin Tobun, CEO of multisector logistics company GV Group, shared their views with Simon and guests.

The increasingly prevalent ‘wage war’, shortage of people, the ‘Amazon-effect’ and lack of understanding into the diversity and opportunities that the hospitality industry can offer, were all discussed. Whilst there may or may not be a “silver bullet” solution, the discussion highlighted some of the biggest challenges and potential solutions:

“We’re all in this unique situation where we’re struggling to find people to come and work for us and perhaps, are struggling to hold on to them. The challenges we are seeing here, we are seeing in other territories but not to the extent that we see in the UK,” said Ronan Harte. 

Attract and retain – raging wage wars have highlighted the ever-growing need to retain people, to protect margins and businesses. Wage inflation alone is creating increased movement between businesses; leaders have an incumbent responsibility to address this to protect the industry as a whole.

Hospitality is not a single opportunity – whilst it may be a single word, it’s definitely not a single entity. As Tevin pointed out, there’s a common perception that hospitality is solely about front of house and back of house, yet there’s a wide range of careers available from accountant to lawyer, to logistics. Still often seen as a stop-gap, a shift in perception is needed to open up its opportunities.

Engaging the workforce – As Ronan highlighted, “When you have good people, you need to work really hard to hold on to them”. Every employer needs to ask themselves the question; are they doing enough? Enough to keep their teams engaged, motivated and inspired.  

“It’s a leader’s job to believe in the potential of people,” added Tevin.

Financial recognition is important, but so is the opportunity to feel supported, develop, grow and really love what you do.

Tevin commented: “The logistics world needs to look at real life issues that impact drivers. Whether it’s working conditions or giving people the ability to engage with their families whilst they’re leaving them for days.”

Simon shared his confidence in the sector: “I’ve always believed in the hospitality sector. We have to push forward to make sure it’s a better place to work.  This includes helping with mental health, wellbeing and wider meaning in life.” added Simon.

A combination of the pandemic and Brexit has thrown the industry what feels like a new set of challenges. Or, perhaps they are some of the same challenges, but they’ve been pushed into the spotlight? But, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people in hospitality always pull together, particularly in the face of adversity.

Huge thanks from Arena to all those that contributed to the raffle. More than £1,200 was raised for Beyond Food, which will provide training and support to vulnerable people.