Covid: Restaurants get creative in bid to plug staff shortage

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Hawksmoor restaurantImage source, Hawksmoor
Image caption,
Will Beckett said Hawksmoor needed to "turbo-charge" its recruitment drive

Restaurant group Hawksmoor is offering bonuses of up to £2,000 to workers who recommend friends for jobs in a bid to fill staffing shortages.

Another chain has emailed customers with a promise of gift vouchers if they introduce candidates who go on to be hired by the firm.

It comes as the hospitality sector faces a jobs crisis that threatens to hold back its recovery.

Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett told the BBC there "aren't enough people".

The firm's problems underline the wider staffing crunch facing hospitality with indoor dining in Britain having resumed last week.

Pub chains Marston's and Mitchells and Butlers both warned last week that they were finding it hard to recruit workers, blaming overseas staff returning home and the stop-start nature of lockdown forcing people to give up on the sector.

Mr Beckett said: "Hospitality is struggling with recruitment at the moment. It's a little hard to tell whether this is because there aren't enough people due to them leaving the country or leaving the sector, or because everyone is recruiting at the same time."

Whatever the reason, he said, Hawksmoor needed to "turbo-charge" its recruitment efforts.

For each person recommended and who is hired after passing a one-month trial they will get a bonus - £200 for a first friend, £300 for the next one, and up to £2,000 for five friends.

Brexit effect

Mr Beckett said he wanted to re-direct the recruitment budget "at our own staff, who've had financial problems while on furlough. So instead of a huge amount spent on recruitment websites or agencies, we did this policy."

Another restaurant chain, Caravan, said it was offering £100 gift vouchers to customers if they successfully recommend someone for a job.

"We have emailed our lovely customers to help us find superstars to work with us," the firm said in an email to the BBC.

The Sunday Times, which reported the quirky practices some firms were using, quoted the chairman of recruitment giant Reed as saying the jobs pendulum had swung back in favour of workers.

But James Reed said there were job shortages across the board, not just in hospitality, with 18,000 vacancies added online in just one day last week - "the highest number I can recall in years".

Government action needed

Latest figures from global recruitment firm Broadbean Technology found that in April, vacancies in UK hospitality soared 77% from the previous month. However, compared with April 2020, the number of applications slumped 82%.

"The decline in application numbers is a concern and could hinder the growth of the hospitality sector in the immediate future," said Broadbean's managing director Alex Fourlis.

He said that, as work dried up during the pandemic many people chose to leave the sector and firms now face a challenge enticing them back.

But he added: "Perhaps more concerningly, though, this drop in applications follows the UK's exit from the EU and potentially suggests that Brexit has had a long-lasting impact on hospitality."

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UK Hospitality, told the Sunday Times it was time for the government to review its "shortage occupations" list.

"We've also suggested an Australian-style coronavirus recovery visa for lower-skilled workers who don't meet the point-based system [but] who are crucial to the recovery," she said.

UK Hospitality has estimated that more than 52,000 venues employing about 900,000 people were planning to reopen last week in England, Scotland and Wales. That's on top of about 26,000 venues that opened in April for outside trading.