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UK hospitality leaders call for relaxed immigration rules to solve staffing crisis

More than 65 hospitality leaders, including Pret A Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham, sign a letter pressing UK ministers to relax Brexit immigration rules for hospitality workers to solve chronic staff shortages in the industry 

UK Hospitality estimates a shortfall of more than 200,000 staff across the hospitality sector | Photo credit: Daniel Norris via Unsplash

Published in The Financial Times, the letter called for hospitality staff to be added to the UK government’s shortage occupations list, which offers reduced visa fees and fewer barriers to entry for eligible workers. 

“Allowing the sector to recruit the staff it needs will result in higher turnover, more jobs and the resultant taxes returning to pre-pandemic levels more quickly,” part of the letter states. 

The hospitality industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 lockdowns, trading restrictions, and social distancing measures. World Coffee Portal data shows Covid-19 disruption caused a near 40% sales decline among UK branded coffee chains in 2020, with the total number of outlets shrinking 1.9% and nearly £2bn ($2.8bn) wiped off the market value. 

However, the chronic shortfall of skilled hospitality staff is impeding the recovery of many businesses. Trade body UK Hospitality estimates a shortfall of more than 200,000 staff across the sector. 

“The last 18 months have seen hospitality lose over two thirds of its normal revenue, 10% of its businesses and headcount fall by almost 30%,” said UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls during a recent conference. 

In September 2021, an Office of National Statistics (ONS) report found hospitality businesses are more than twice as likely as other industries to be experiencing challenges in filling vacancies. 

Subsequently, many UK coffee chains are increasing wages to become more attractive to hospitality staff. 

In June 2021, data from jobs marketplace Indeed Flex showed weekday wages at pubs, bars and restaurants had increased 5% across the UK compared to the same period in 2020.  

In September 2021, Costa Coffee announced that all 14,500 of its team members in UK company-owned stores will receive a 5% pay rise. In the same month, UK food-to-go and coffee chain Pret A Manger also raised café staff wages by 5%. 

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