Whatever is going to be done about staffing problems in UK hospitality?

Us Brits have never been good at appreciating the hospitality industry and the amazing people who serve us wonderful food and drinks every time we go out to eat. In my 30 years of owning and running my award-winning pub & restaurant it has been a constant disappointment.

One of my Bulgarian pub boys (Bo) who has been a waiter and barman for me for over 10 years now, has just sent me a fabulous article by Rachel Cook from the Food & Drink section in The Observer.

It was a great read and Rachel was very understanding of the crisis that all hospitality businesses are facing right now. Finding staff is nigh on impossible right now because of the impact of both Brexit and Covid.

In her article Rachel was ready to don her waitress pinny once again and give hospitality another go. Yes it’s hard work serving people but it’s also a rewarding profession when you do it well and an essential service we can’t do without. There’s nothing better than going out for a meal with family and friends and being taken care of by a helpful, friendly, knowledgeable waiter or waitress who knows their stuff, but here in England we place no value on that skill set and our attitude makes me sad.

Throughout Europe, the USA and Australia, being a waiter or waitress is a profession to be proud of. To be good takes years of training and hard work and the ability to really read people. In my 30 years in the hospitality industry I’m ashamed when I hear customers asking my staff what are they going to do for their “real career”. As if being a waiter is simply a stop gap to something more. Whatever you do in life, be the best at it. Being a brilliant waiter or barman is not easy, it’s a skill just like being a CEO or a fireman. It takes patience, attention to detail, hard work, honesty, empathy, organisational skill, dedication, understanding and more. Taking pride in your work is what’s important.

Next time you’re in a pub or restaurant, remember that when we’re looking after you and your family and friends we could be with our own loved ones, enjoying the same kind of experience. Instead we’ve chosen to give our care and attention to you; it might be the middle of the summer holidays or Christmas, Easter or a busy bank holiday, time when all the “normal” people are off having a well-earned rest and we are still working so that you can do just that.

So many hospitality places are closing their doors because they can’t get staff here in England. They need help from the government to motivate British people to work or encourage workers from abroad to return to the UK post Brexit. And they need to do something soon otherwise none of us will be going out to eat & we’ll lose one of the most pleasurable life experiences. Sitting down with friends or family, being well-looked after & fed to contentment, with no washing up to do for any of us is utterly blissful (and I should know).

Let’s stand by and support our hospitality staff, some of the most hard-working professionals we have but still entirely undervalued in this country.