Original article from Kent Live
The owners of pubs and restaurants in Kent have spoken about the difficulty they face recruiting staff.
They have lifted the lid on many reasons behind the shortage of candidates, from an “undervalued and overtaxed” industry, to a lack of young people in the area.
Other issues they face are workers retraining and leaving the trade, the instability lockdown has wrought on the industry and the perception hours are long and pay is poor.
Sam Maynard, who is the owner of the Sussex Pass restaurant at the White Hart in Wadhurst, and The Wheel Inn at Burwash, has introduced a four-day week for full-time staff to improve their work-life balance and attract potential candidates.
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He has also increased pay by 15 per cent and is introducing a 7.5 per cent “profit bonus pot” to be split between staff who worked that year.
'I have lost good people'
His vacancies include sous chef, junior sous chef, chef de partie and assistant manager.
He told KentLive: “There are good people out there. I have lost good people in hotels because we couldn’t be flexible about hours they work or what we can pay.
"Why would I want to lose a good member of staff over, say, £2,000?
“Now we’re offering a four-day week, it’s starting to pick up. I have two chefs coming to see me this week.”
Asked how he could afford these measures, he said it was an investment which would pay off within six months.
“There are too many people in hospitality looking at the bottom line and how much money they make rather than the long game.
"It might cost me in the coming months and I might not make any profit out of the business but I will have a strong, stable team with a work/life balance. You have to invest in people. I want people to enjoy their jobs,” he said.
He said he is often asked if Brexit is to blame on the diminishing workforce.
'The whole industry needs reform'
“We need to look within and make sure we are doing the right thing before we blame other things and the whole industry needs a reform.
That’s why I’ve set up the website shiftthemindset.co.uk to make sure pay is fair, they have the work/life balance and companies treat staff well,” said Sam, 28, who lives near Burwash.
“It was always drilled into me, this is a job where you have to love it and not get any time off and work 14 or 15-hour days.
“And if you do get time off, you are so knackered you sleep all day. I have been guilty of overworking people and not paying them fairly and anyone in hospitality saying they haven’t, will probably be telling a few fibs,” he said, adding this perception of long hours put young people off.
He also said that the industry in the UK needs to be seen as a place good careers can be found and made, and respected, as in Europe, rather than as a place “people pass through”.
Sedat Zorba owns Zorba Meze Grill, also in Grosvenor Road in Tunbridge Wells. He explained why recruiting is difficult.
He has vacancies for a kitchen porter, chef assistant, waiting staff and a delivery driver.
He told us: “The first and biggest issue is that restaurant jobs are not stable any more and restaurants and hospitality businesses are a very easy target.
“The first thing the Government do is close restaurants down and the staff want more stability with jobs and are changing their jobs to do something else, like if you work in a supermarket, you know they will not close.
“The second thing is Brexit. After Brexit we knew that Eastern Europeans would go back and it did happen and there are not many around who want to do this type of job anymore.
"When everyone starts looking at the staff out there, if there are staff available out there, they start taking a little advantage, looking for a pay rise, and they want a bit more and more because they get lots of job offers all around. So this is not very good for hospitality.”
Talking about costs facing business owners, Sedat said: “The price of ingredients has gone up a lot, especially lamb prices which went up in the last two months, almost three times – yes, almost three times they went up. In this way, the hospitality business is really suffering.
“Whether some places will look to close down, I don’t know, or some of the places will look to do something else.
“It’s not very good news for this sector.”