Current skills shortages in the hospitality industry
The article aims to investigate some of the current skills shortages in the hospitality industry, particularly in the UK and the USA. There is no doubt that the skills shortage in the hospitality industry is not new news to industry veterans. Many surveys have been conducted and many industry experts have been writing about it over the years; however, any significant progress to turn things around is yet to be evidenced adequately. And it is not the USA and the UK only, but also many nations in the European Union (EU) and beyond face growing threats of skills shortages.
Current skills shortages in the hospitality industry
Back in those days, computer engineers, software developers, doctors and some others used to be hardest-to-find workers. It is true that shortages in those professions are still there; however, skills shortages in the hospitality industry are growing day by day. Now-a-days hotel and restaurant workers are some of the hardest-to-find workers in the USA and the UK.
Many people believe that it is a golden age for eating out in the USA and the UK, as a great variety and quality of food is widely available. There are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking establishments across the USA, and the growth rate of restaurant is approximately twice the rate of the population (Deloitte, 2018, cited in Dodd, 2019). According to Luty (2019) 86,630 businesses were operating in the restaurant and mobile food service industry in the UK, in 2017. The same source reveals that the total number of pubs operating in the UK in the same year was 48,350.
However, this booming industry requires skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers, and this is where the problem lies. The industry is threatened by a chronic shortage of chefs, waiters/waitresses, cooks, and others. Many positions in hotels and restaurants go unfulfilled due to a lack of labour supply in the market.
1 in 5 hospitality businesses in the UK are finding recruitment harder than last year. They have also raised serious concerns about hiring in coming years. Likewise, many restaurants and small hotels are claiming to have cut business hours in order to retain staff. It has also been reported that many curry restaurants (2 to 4 a week according to some sources) are closing in the UK as there are not enough qualified chefs to cook the food.
Reasons for current skills shortages in the hospitality industry
There are some common reasons why the hospitality industry is facing skills shortage around the world. For example, fewer youngsters in the workforce, low-paid jobs, anti-social hours of work, political crisis, a boom in restaurant openings, and misconceptions are some of the main reasons driving skills shortage.
Political landscape impacts heavily on skills shortage. For instance, uncertainties of undocumented workers in the USA, and Brexit uncertainties in the UK are creating skills shortages. According to a survey conducted by YouGov in the UK in June 2018 revealed that 1 in 10 people working in restaurants, hotels, and other catering organisations were planning to leave the UK because of Brexit uncertainty (Hospitality and Catering News, 2018).
Many people believe that hospitality industry offers mostly low-skilled and low paid jobs. While it is true to some extent, it is also true that this industry offers a huge number of diverse opportunities. However, due to misconceptions, many youngsters do not want to come into this industry resulting in current and potentially future skills shortage.
Putting the misconceptions aside, hospitality industry has its own challenges that drive people out of it. Long shift of work, weekend, evening, and late-night work, lots of shouting by supervisors and managers (mostly unnecessary) and relatively low pay have portrayed a negative image of the industry, thereby discouraging many to select it a career choice.
Solutions to current skills shortages in the hospitality industry
Training and retraining local people may be a good solution to deal with the current skills shortage. However, it is a time-consuming process, and may not solve the problems in the short-term. Supervisory and managerial training programmes may be very useful to gain cultural awareness and create a work environment that is less stressful, friendly, and rewarding.
Hiring students may work out to be a good solution as well. Likewise, by offering more flexible work opportunities, organisations may solve the problem in the short-term. For instance, Travelodge’s decision to hire 3,000 students in the summer 2019 with contracts allowing them to fit work around their studies is a good example (Butler, 2019).
Whichever the way Brexit goes, the uncertainties must be dealt with immediately. This will restore the confidence of the existing workers who are involved in the UK’s hospitality industry. Likewise, many analysts argue that the USA needs low-skilled immigrants to deal with the current shortages of skills.
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Last update: 11 October 2019
Butler, S. (2019) Travelodge seeks 3,000 students as it faces Brexit staff shortage, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/may/07/travelodge-seeks-3000-students-as-it-faces-brexit-staff-shortage (accessed 05 October 2019)
Dodd, P. (2019) Navigating workforce shortages in the restaurant industry, available at: https://www.restaurantdive.com/news/navigating-workforce-shortages-in-the-restaurant-industry/552265/ (accessed 05 October 2019)
Hospitality and Catering News (2018) The hospitality industry could face significant staff shortages as one in ten sector workers consider leaving the UK due to Brexit, available at: https://www.hospitalityandcateringnews.com/2018/06/hospitality-industry-face-significant-staff-shortages-one-ten-sector-workers-consider-leaving-uk-due-brexit/ (accessed 04 October 2019)
Luty, J. (2019) Number of pubs in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2000 to 2017 (in 1,000s), available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/310723/total-number-of-pubs-in-the-united-kingdom/ (accessed 04 October 2019)
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Author: M Rahman
M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.