Is it now time to up prices?

Collective move can make a real difference to pay and help tackle recruitment crisis, writes Gordon McIntyre.

Gordon McIntyre is sitting by a window.
Gordon McIntyre is chair and co-founder of charity Hospitality Health.

WE are certainly living and working in strange times. No one alive has lived through what we are experiencing right now.

There is a saying, “never waste a pandemic”. Certainly unusual to hear, but I really feel it makes sense for the hospitality sector right now.

We are in the midst of a perfect storm – a recruitment crisis caused by the pandemic and worsened with the effects of Brexit, and many overseas workers have now returned to their homelands never to return to the UK.

Many businesses are operating on reduced capacity, due to COVID restrictions, and also because they have insufficient staff to open longer hours.

It is honestly the most worrying time for many in the industry. They are worried for their staff, worried for the continuity of business, worried about the debt they are in, worried for their own health and well-being.

In my opinion, the time has never been better to increase prices within the hospitality industry and with the increase in pricing, pass on that reward to the staff and raise the income of our staff.

I know it may sound controversial and a challenging move for the sector to go down, however, we need to be brave and courageous in fighting our way back to getting fully open and trading in the future, post-pandemic.

As an industry we need to stand together and all act in this positive way; we have been without customers for months and they are hungry to come back to enjoy fabulous food, wonderful wines and superb service. They will pay for this now and in the future as long as we deliver the level of service and quality of food they expect.

“When the tide comes in all the boats are lifted” – we need to act together, and I am confident that now is our time to effect a change that will be a lasting one in creating a better industry for the future.

The reputation of long hours, low pay has got to change; businesses now need pay the living wage and start to follow the principles of fair work. Fair work is work that offers effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect; that balances the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers; and that can generate benefits for individuals, organisations and society.

The Hoteliers Charter, created by Sally Beck, has made a start to move towards this, as has the Wellness Charter from Hospitality Health in Scotland, both need to be promoted to make the changes permeate across the industry and beyond.

For those who fear that the customers will abandon the sector if prices are increased, I have to suggest that they have been forced to stay away for the past 18 months due to lockdown rules.

It is clear now, as things are opening up, they are desperate to return in their droves.
This demand will continue and as long as guests receive high quality service and products they will continue to support the industry, happy to pay for provenance, atmosphere, storytelling and so much more.

• Gordon McIntyre is the chair and co-founder of industry mental health charity Hospitality Health and associate dean – hospitality and tourism at City of Glasgow College.