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Opening up is hard to do

28 May, 2021

Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars reopening has been a major milestone for returning to normality over the last couple of weeks. But the hospitality industry is not finding it easy to meet the demand.

Much of the country, and certainly around our office in London’s Soho, restauranteurs and landlords are struggling to recruit staff. The problem is something of a perfect storm: Brexit causing a significant proportion of European waiting and kitchen staff to leave the country, Covid leading to many people looking for an alternative trade, and time away changing people’s career priorities.

As a result of shortages of skilled workers, wages are rising  (anecdotally, by around 35% in the hardest-hit areas). But some restaurants are also having to scale back opening hours or covers to compensate, reducing their ability to bounce back. In response, there are industry movements to address the problem in the longer-term, such as Springboard to 2022, backed by a number of industry giants, to get 10,000 young people trained up by next summer.

However, in more casual work, there are already shorter-term solutions. New tech platforms like Stint are connecting people looking for short shifts of unskilled work with hospitality venues looking for their time. Stint is specifically for students, who set the hours they are open to working, are offered 2-3 hour shifts that fit their criteria, and only work the ones they want. It’s minimum wage, but it feels like a win-win for both parties, particularly at this challenging time.

As with any new labour platform, we should be wary about unintended consequences: this is not a solution to all staffing. But, for the cafes and food stalls we visit for lunch, it is providing a short-term fix when they really need it.

By Ben Wood

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