In the below guest post, Giles Fuchs, Owner of Burgh Island Hotel, takes a look at what lessons the UK hospitality sector can learn from Europe.
With the omicron variant changing travel restriction rules and the effects of Brexit rumbling on in the background, it may seem strange to suggest that the UK can look abroad for solutions to its hospitality crisis. But that is exactly what UK hospitality businesses should do.
Across Europe, hospitality roles are respected – even coveted – and work in the sector is seen as a serious profession rather than a short-term means of making money.
As a result, many European hospitality workers enjoy long and successful careers in the sector.
This contrasts starkly with their UK counterparts, whose abandonment of the sector has left two fifths of British hospitality venues at risk of partial or complete closure, according to trade body UKHospitality.
And while three quarters of pub and restaurant bosses plan to increase pay to attract and retain recruits, improving the esteem of hospitality roles will be just as important – and arguably better for the sector in the long term.
Continue professional development
Workers move jobs much more than they did a generation ago, reflecting the tendency among millennials and Gen-Z to go hunting for the best opportunities.
They simply will not settle for stagnation, so providing ample Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is absolutely essential for employers.
At Burgh Island Hotel, for instance, we have been guiding our staff in the latest sustainability practices, helping us minimise the hotel’s carbon footprint.
Skills such as this will be particularly popular with increasingly environmentally conscious employees, as well as highly relevant to the running of a hospitality business.
If staff can see benefits for themselves personally as well as professionally, they will feel more valued as people rather than just workers, and will be more likely to remain in their roles.
Plan for success(ion)
Staff staying in their roles is only a good sign in the short term.
In the long run, it will be better for them and the business if they experience genuine career progression.
More than two million people work in the UK hospitality sector, but how many of those have been involved in “succession planning”? Probably very few.
Succession planning involves identifying potential leaders and supporting them to grow into roles of greater responsibility.
In other industries, and in hospitality abroad, it is a vital means of refreshing the talent pipeline at senior levels.
In the UK, it would dramatically improve the appeal of careers in hospitality because even entry-level jobs would be seen to lead somewhere.
Learn from abroad
Offering formalised training programmes and apprenticeship schemes would also help the sector retain its workers, by encouraging recognition of hospitality jobs as highly skilled roles. Beyond this, establishing a dedicated educational institution in the UK, similar to the ESO Euroschool Hotel Academy on the continent, would encourage even more people to pursue long-lasting careers in hospitality.
UK hospitality has so far struggled to deal with the post-Brexit exodus of EU workers, but importing European attitudes towards hospitality work, rather than workers themselves, will actually build much greater resilience in the long term.
Employers who invest in their workers will be rewarded with recruits more inclined to keep their ever-growing skillset in the businesses which helped them develop – and that, of course, will benefit the hospitality sector as a whole.