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Overcoming the Great Hospitality Staffing Shortage: Strategies for Success

Staffing shortages have become a pressing issue for the UK hospitality sector in the wake of the pandemic. The industry is facing unprecedented challenges in both recruitment and retention. Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) confirming a 36% increase in vacancies today compared with the months before lockdown.

Venues operating at reduced capacity aren’t just less productive. The smaller workplace places increased pressure on existing staff. This lowers service quality thereby negatively impacting on the customer experience, but it also increases stress levels, can provoke feeling of unhappiness and negativity, undermines the workplace culture and can lead to burnout. The end result is poor staff retention and an endless cycle of recruitment, training and loss.

The Challenges at Hand

The severe shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality sector can be traced back to several factors:

  1. Brexit Uncertainty: Prior to Brexit, many UK restaurant and hotel businesses relied on EU migrants to plug skills gaps and hard-to-fill vacancies. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit along with changes to visa rules and requirements deterred many from seeking employment in the UK, even before Britain actually left the EU. Since Brexit, difficulties obtaining working visas has led to a significant reduction in the available workforce.
  2. Pandemic Fallout: The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated staffing shortages by causing widespread layoffs, creating reluctance among former employees to return to the industry due to health concerns or career changes.
  3. Low Wages and Long Hours: Hospitality roles often come with low wages and demanding schedules. This makes it challenging to attract and retain talent, especially in the face of rising living costs and a widespread desire for a better work / life balance.

Impact on the Industry

It goes without saying that staffing shortage poses significant challenges for businesses in the hospitality sector: no business can survive without an adequate number of workers with the right skills and knowledge to deliver exceptional customer experiences. A lack of experienced staff causes a domino effect on the business, with consequences including:

  1. Decreased Service Quality: A bar with too few bar tenders will not be able to service customers and deliver drinks quickly. A restaurant with too few waiters won’t be able to deliver hot, delicious food in a timely manner. The list goes on. Understaffed establishments struggle to maintain the level of service expected by customers, leading to longer wait times, decreased customer satisfaction, and potential damage to reputation.
  2. Increased Workload: No employee - no matter how skilled or engaged they may be - can give the same output as two or more employees - but staff shortages put undue pressure on them to do just that. Existing staff members are forced to take on additional responsibilities to compensate for the lack of manpower, leading to burnout and decreased morale. If not addressed, this sense of dissatisfaction can further impact the quality of service provided. This could manifest as a hostile work culture, poor guest experiences, negative reviews and a loss of business.
  3. Loss of Revenue and Talent: With limited staff, businesses may have to reduce operating hours or limit services, resulting in revenue losses. Low customer satisfaction due to poor service means fewer returning customers - and burnout can lead to the loss of good staff. That means bearing the cost of recruitment once again, a loss in productivity, additional time required for staff training and a knowledge drain on the business as a whole.

Developing A Strategy for Success

While the great staffing shortage is a daunting challenge that threatens the survival of many businesses, there are strategies that hospitality businesses can employ to mitigate its impact.

  1. Invest in Employee Retention: One of the greatest mistakes a business can make is write off staff as an expense rather than as an investment. Prioritise the well-being and job satisfaction of existing staff to reduce turnover rates. Offer competitive wages, provide opportunities for career advancement, and create a positive work environment that fosters employee loyalty.
  2. Flexible Scheduling: Working in hospitality will often mean working on weekends and during holidays, which can be an isolating experience. This can be countered by implementing flexible scheduling practices to accommodate employees' needs and preferences, such as offering part-time or flexible work options, which can attract a wider pool of candidates.
  3. Training and Upskilling: Invest in training programmes to develop skills and empower existing team members to take on other responsibilities and progress on the career ladder. Cross-training employees in multiple roles can also enhance operational flexibility; just remember, this doesn't mean you should expect each employee to do the work of multiple people.
  4. Tap into Alternative Labor Sources: Explore alternative labour sources, such as hiring retirees, students, or individuals seeking temporary employment, to supplement staffing shortages during peak periods. For example, students will often seek temporary employment over the Christmas period or in summer - and an occasional worker could become a valued employee over time, if motivated to stay.
  5. Utilise Technology Solutions: Work smarter, not harder is a mantra that many hospitality businesses would be wise to adopt. Embrace technology solutions designed to streamline operations and enhance efficiency. WaiterMate is one example of how new technologies can simultaneously improve the staff and guest experience while also delivering tangible business benefits.

Introducing WaiterMate

WaiterMate is the world’s fastest mobile ePos system. This powerful pocket device is revolutionary. It isn’t just a mobile ePos. It’s a smart, convenient and low cost way to to streamline operations, make staff’s lives easier, boost team morale, increase tips and optimise revenue. Here's how WaiterMate can help:

  1. Efficient Order Taking: WaiterMate simplifies the process of taking orders thanks to an intuitive interface. Staff can input orders and send them directly to the kitchen from the bar or table, reducing wait times and improving overall efficiency. This leads to better teamwork, less dashing from table to till and faster service. In turn this means more customers can be served, increasing revenue and elevating the guest experience by reducing wait times.
  2. Built-in Card Payments: With built-in card payment capabilities, WaiterMate enables staff to process payments seamlessly, eliminating the need for additional hardware and reducing transaction times. It’s simpler and faster.
  3. Enhanced Mobility: WaiterMate's pocket-sized design allows each member of staff to carry their personal terminal with them in their pocket or apron pocket. They can take orders and process payments on the go, minimising wait times and maximising productivity.
  4. Useful Reports: WaiterMate has built-in reporting and analytics capabilities. This allows managers to optimise operations and improve decision-making, for better staff management and enhanced service offerings.

The great hospitality staffing shortage presents a formidable challenge for businesses in the UK and beyond. However, by implementing strategic solutions such as investing in employee retention, embracing technology solutions like WaiterMate, and tapping into alternative labour sources, it is possible to overcome the issues related to staff shortages and thrive in an overly competitive landscape.

Schedule a demo to find out more about how WaiterMate can give your staff and your business the competitive edge.

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