Industry moves to tackle staff shortage

Operators launch recruitment drives and back trade group campaign

OPERATORS across Scotland are moving to tackle the recruitment challenge facing the industry, as staff shortages impact on businesses across the country.

As bars, restaurants and hotels have reopened under restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, trading has been further hampered by a shortage of staff, as the impacts of the pandemic and Brexit, which saw thousands of EU workers return to their home nations, are felt across the industry.

A recent survey by trade group UK Hospitality suggested a current UK-wide vacancy rate across the sector of 9%, which it said implied a shortage of 188,000 workers.

In a bid to tackle the recruitment challenge, a number of operators are staging recruitment drives or offering cash incentives for referrals; while others have backed a new industry-led recruitment campaign funded by the Scottish Government.

Multiple operator Buzzworks, whose outlets include Scotts venues in Troon, Largs and South Queensferry, has launched a £20,000 fund which staff and customers can receive a share of for successful referrals as it bids to “attract the next generation of culinary superstars into the kitchen and tackle a recruitment drought with almost 50 chef vacancies”.

“As a people business which values every voice, we are looking to our own people but also our communities to refer motivated and talented individuals – and we’ve released an impressive bonus pot to reward and thank successful referrals,” said Buzzworks chef director Trevor Garden.

Paul Sloan, whose Diversity Leisure group includes the Waterfront Fishouse and Cuan Mor restaurants in Oban, currently has three of his venues in Oban and Fort William closed two days a week due to staff shortages.

Paul, who has just conducted a large overseas recruitment drive, said staffing is challenging.

“I’ve got some restaurants closed Monday, Tuesday at the moment because I don’t want to stretch the team or drop standards,” he said.

“We’re fine in the cities but it is challenging up north.

“It’s a real challenge for the whole industry. But I think now is the time to address it, adapt and change.”

Hospitality group Accor, which has more than 20 Scottish hotels in its portfolio, held two recruitment days in Edinburgh last month in a bid to recruit for 100 roles.

It comes as a recruitment campaign, funded by the  Scottish Government and backed by industry groups including the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) and UK Hospitality Scotland, as well as operators such as Signature Group, is said to be gathering pace.

An advertising campaign designed to encourage young people to pursue a career in hospitality launched last month; and the Careerscope jobs portal enables employers to list vacancies.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said: “Staffing is a challenge, and perhaps the biggest worry is a lack of chefs.

“Where businesses don’t have a full quota they’re adjusting their hours because they don’t want to stretch the team they have or put out a sub-standard product – and I think that’s an example of responsible operators looking after their staff; but the other side is then the visitor product obviously isn’t there.

“We hope this campaign will encourage more people to work in hospitality.

“We’ve already had 12,500 new users to the site so the positive is 12,500 people have gone there to look for work; I’d encourage the industry to make sure they list jobs.”