Words by Conrad Brunton

We’ve all spoken about the staffing problems
but are there any solutions

As an industry we have spoken about the staffing shortages that we face at length and beyond; we have debated the reasons, discussed the externalities and taken a long hard look in the mirror at what we did badly for so long that has ‘put people off’ our fabulous trade. This month we wanted to offer some solutions, some have been discussed in our previous articles, others are measures we have heard of through our network, and some are just best practice that many will know and already do. It’s a fact now that if your internal people function is not your primary concern then it needs to be, recruitment and retention has never been harder and there is nothing that suggests that this will get better in the short to medium term. The only thing you can do is to make your business an employer of choice, there are several ways that you can ensure that you are. Even if you feel you are on top of your game, we hope you can take something positive from the following list. 


The obvious starting point but we won’t bang on about levels of pay, that is simply too obvious. We all know that the phrase “pay peanuts, get monkey’s” applies in every industry and is nothing new. We are also acutely aware that salaries have increased in hospitality post covid, basic supply and demand has fuelled this. According to Big Hospitality staff wages have increased an eye-watering 14%

What we would like to highlight is equitable pay. We spoke to Alex Claridge, founder of The Wilderness in Birmingham who explained that he has implemented a back-office system that the whole team can access and see exactly what everyone earns – including Alex himself. This level of transparency is (as far as we know) revolutionary in hospitality, he explained that it has had a resoundingly positive effect on his team. 

Another area for thought is overtime, yes you heard us, Overtime! A word which, had you dreamed to whisper it to your line manager 2-3 years ago would have ended with you being laughed out of a meeting. Claridge uses a system to work out if any of his team have dropped below national living wage per. hour when they have worked over their contracted hours. This means that in his restaurant the lowest-paid members of his team (FOH Commis and KPs) earn a £28k package. Of course, there are many businesses that will say that there is no way they could pay such salaries and we do understand that. We believe that it is time that people in the industry are financially rewarded fairly, the cost for this must be picked up by our guests and business owners/operators alike. 


As with the unmentionable overtime a similar offence would be to ask a hiring manager “How many hours a week will I be working and will I be able to get one weekend off each month”. As recruiters I would say it is the question, we are asked more than any other by our candidates. The days of 8 am-midnight, 5-days-a-week and 80-hour weeks are gone, and we can no longer base our financial planning around them (certainly without paying the overtime). Many factors will affect the number of hours which you will expect your team to do but our belief is that anything much north of 50 is not going to be competitive in the current marketplace. 

We are also finding that businesses who are expecting their people to work every Friday, Saturday and Sunday are missing out in the battle to recruit and retain. We are seeing more and more businesses benefit from hiring an additional body to allow rotation to give someone 1 in 4 or even 1 in 6 weekends off. 

Additional benefits… 

Pension and Meals on duty… I mean, not exactly inspirational, is it? It’s time that we start thinking outside the box and giving a little more. We have seen some amazing examples of industry-leading benefits and businesses going the extra mile to reward their employees. 

Development – career development is widely known to be a factor when candidates are looking at new opportunities, and it is cited in many exit interviews as a reason for someone leaving an organisation if it is lacking. We have discussed this area at length in the past. Development doesn’t just mean getting a promotion, it is continuous professional growth, learning over time and cross-training to learn more about the wider business and other departments. Few hospitality employers are taking advantage of the national apprenticeship scheme and they are really missing a trick. Any employee of any age can take an apprenticeship which is funded (often entirely but always up to 90%) by the government. The course they undertake doesn’t have to be directly linked to their job role – how about putting a chef through a level 3 in Hospitality Management so they can develop their knowledge of FOH operations. A KP could take a course in basic food prep and health and hygiene. There is a huge selection of courses available, we recommend a large supplier such as Umbrella Training who is a specialist in providing apprenticeship courses to hospitality businesses. I guarantee implementing these within your business will aid your recruitment and increase your staff retention. 

Encourage your team to ‘get social’ – Don’t just limit your work get-togethers to birthdays and Christmas parties. Why not treat your staff to a monthly ‘chill session’ which could include anything from bowling, mini-golf, a winery tour, or a movie? This provides a great way for your team to get out of your venue and have a relaxing day together. 

Casual gatherings also enable your staff to talk with one another, learn from one another, and form friendships within the business. Team bonding isn’t just a great way to make friends in the office, it can also increase productivity and enable you to find strengths and weaknesses within your team. Plus, being surrounded by positive and like-minded people can make the difference between staff who don’t enjoy their work and staff who love their work.

Staff meals – Long gone are the days when being served leftover bacon and sausages in a hotel was acceptable as an adequate staff meal. We wrote a full article on this subject back in February 2020’s copy of CHEF & Restaurateur. We spoke to Sat Bains, Brad Carter (Carter’s of Moseley) and Johnny Smith (Clove Club & Luca) who all take great pride in what they serve their teams each day. Where possible their people eat together, meals are varied and nutritionally balanced. Having some breakfast available for your team is also another hugely positive thing, cereal and toast, some fruit and yoghurt – we know that many people leave home in a rush in the morning, so having something for them when they get to work is a massive plus. 

Gym & leisure club membership – we all know that a healthy body equals a healthy mind, is there a club locally to you that you can partner with and offer your team a free or discounted membership? 

These are just a few key areas that we believe will enhance your ability to recruit and retain talent within your business. We would love to hear from you if you have any ideas to add to this list. Remember, the best candidates will always have options, and counteroffers are becoming more and more common in this current climate.

Ask yourself this, what makes you the employer of choice? 

Assess what the real benefits are within your operation. Remember, the prestige of a business isn’t enough to make it worth the long hours, offering a pension isn’t a benefit it’s a legal requirement, and training is a given in any new job so it’s time to stop claiming they are perks – they aren’t! Real perks add value to the role, and potentially improve the quality of life of the people within your team. It’s time to get back to the drawing board, re-think the values and ethos of your business and consider whether they are in keeping with current times.

Good luck,


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