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What can hospitality businesses do about the staffing crisis?

Donatella Storchi
November 29, 2022

Hospitality has faced tremendous challenges in recent years, having overcome the massive impact of the pandemic and its associated lockdowns, and now dealing with a cost-of-living crisis and potential recession in the near future. We’ve written before about the ingenuity and resilience shown by hospitality companies in overcoming these difficulties, but now – once again – business leaders in our sector have to tackle a new foe: staff shortages.

Despite an estimated 300,000 new jobs created in the past year, the number of unfilled positions in the hospitality industry has risen dramatically since before the pandemic, rising 83% to 174,000 vacancies. Pubs and restaurants around the UK are struggling to fill positions in front- and back-of-house, which impedes their ability to do business. This is particularly harmful in the summer, a key season for many outlets.

The causes of these staffing shortages are a matter of some debate – while some believe that Brexit has created a lull in incoming workers, others believe that hospitality staffing shortages are a hangover of the pandemic, where a great deal of the workforce swapped sectors due to a shift in attitudes and expectations of work and company culture.  

Exacerbating this issue is the continued threat of Covid-19. As most managers and owners will appreciate, without warning the virus can incapacitate an already depleted workforce. If there is an outbreak among staff, pubs and restaurants will be left struggling during some of the busiest weeks of the year.

What is beyond debate is that an understaffed hospitality industry is a major problem. UK Hospitality estimates that staffing shortages are suppressing economic activity in hospitality by £22 billion. This is revenue that could have supported the sector getting back on its feet and returning to pre-pandemic levels.

One can hardly walk down the street today without seeing ‘help wanted’ signs in café and coffee shop windows, while pubs and restaurants around the country are straining to keep up with demand without sufficient staff and support. Some restaurants, for example, are cutting back on the number of days or hours they operate.

At Peckwater Brands, we believe that hospitality businesses deserve every advantage in reclaiming their former standing. Finding solutions to the staffing issue is a top priority for most pubs, restaurants and bars across the country. But what can hospitality businesses do to tackle this problem?

Levelling up company culture

One common explanation for the lack of staff is that many hospitality workers, forced to find alternative jobs during lockdowns, have had a taste of a different way of working. Some may prefer the greater predictability or structure available in different sectors, while the appeal of working remotely may have prevented others from returning to hospitality.

An important step in tackling the staff shortage is, then, ensuring hospitality roles are as appealing as possible for as many people as possible.

Re-examining their company culture might give restaurants, pubs and bars a vital edge in attracting top candidates. Just as we are seeing in other industries, changes in contracts, greater flexibility where possible, providing more benefits and perks, and offering a clear path for progression can make an employer far more appealing, giving them the best chance to attract talent from a reduced pool.

The virtual solution

While the above suggestions might help businesses attract more employees, it doesn’t change the fact that there are ostensibly fewer workers to go around. As such, we need to make the best of what we have; businesses cannot allow for inefficiencies or idle times.

Even in busy seasons, due to the uneven nature of consumer demand, the kitchens in restaurants, pubs, hotels – even sports clubs, event venues and universities – rarely operate at full capacity. This means staff have quiet periods, whether that is for days, weeks or months. If this resonates with your business, virtual brands could be the answer.

Virtual brands – brands which exist solely on third-party delivery apps like Just Eat, Uber Eats or Deliveroo – have the potential to transform the performance of a hospitality business without requiring an increase in staffing. These brands help make the best use of everything a kitchen operator already has.

Virtual brands make use of existing resources such as staff, ingredients and equipment. Consequently, kitchens are able to bolster their output, explore new menus and widen their pool of potential customers, reducing the potential revenue loss that comes with staff shortages.

As with all challenges faced by hospitality in recent years, there is no silver bullet to the staffing issues many across the sector are facing. Hospitality businesses must do all they can appeal to new employees and make the most of the workforce they have.


Peckwater Brands remains the ideal partner for businesses looking to improve their operational efficiency, making it quick and easy for them to integrate profitable virtual brands into their existing setup. Our partners report earning an additional £12,103 – £57,687 a month after taking on at least one virtual brand – so arrange a call with us today and find out what we can offer your business.

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