UK hospitality sector still short staffed and fears for busy summer season: The UK’s hospitality sector is still short staffed and businesses fear they will struggle to cope over the busy summer holiday season, reports the BBC. It comes as former government minister George Eustice called for EU workers to be allowed into the UK to ease post-Brexit shortages, with Downing Street saying staff could be hired under its points-based system. Trade body UK Hospitality also said staffing was in “serious crisis”, with vacancies 48% higher than pre-covid. Restaurateur Stephen Montgomery, who runs Our Place in Annan and is also chair of the Scottish Hospitality Group, said he is “anxious to a degree” about the summer. “Just as we were trying to take the business from five to seven days a week, bang, we lost two members of staff, both front of house,” he said. “If I have to close to make sure my staff aren’t burned out, I will. Why risk losing more staff for financial gain?” His business is now offering interest-free loans and cost-of-living grants to employees as incentives in a tight labour market. Montgomery’s plight, along with others, has been highlighted by former environment secretary Eustice, who said in an interview with The Observer: “I am very sceptical about a skills-based immigration policy because we have no shortages in those areas, but where we do have shortages is in hospitality, it’s quite acute there. We could have a two-year youth mobility scheme which would have no permanent impact on immigration numbers.” Buzzworks runs 19 restaurants across Scotland and employs 800 staff, turning over £35m last year, but finding chefs is a problem. “It’s our most acute shortage,” said owner Kenny Blair. The entrepreneur has obtained an immigration licence “which was not cheap”, but it allows him to recruit staff from abroad – most recently India. UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The workforce shortage is creating a serious crisis as we head deeper into the peak summer season. Nearly half of businesses are reducing trading hours per day, and a third are having to close on some days each week.” James Dixon-Box, deputy manager at Bournemouth’s 95-bed Marsham Court Hotel in Dorset, said hoteliers in the town had been forced to think laterally to combat staffing issues. “We work really hard on cross-training so we have staff who are multi-skilled,” he said. “Finding chefs is not the easiest thing but we do a lot of work with colleges and schools and have student apprentices. There’s no use moping about saying there’s a skills gap, the best way is to teach people and for them to learn.”James Tiller, owner of the Lamplighter Dining Rooms in Windermere, said filling the rota had been “more of a challenge” since the pandemic. “The southern European contingent just didn’t come back,” he said. “Then there’s the surging cost of living, coupled with unaffordable rental accommodation, that’s in phenomenally short supply here. We may face certain days where we have to restrict the volume of guests.” A spokesperson for the Home Office said many hospitality roles such as chefs are eligible under the points-based system.
Latest edition of Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book shows 68% of companies in profit, up from 67% last month:
The Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, to be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (14 July), shows 68% of the 745 largest sector companies are now in profit. The Blue Book shows 504 companies in profit and 241 reporting losses. This is slightly up as last month, when 67% of companies were reporting a profit. The Blue Book is updated each month and ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Premium subscribers are also to receive access to all the videos from this month’s Propel Multi-Club Conference featuring the sector’s finest female leaders and entrepreneurs. Premium subscribers will be sent 11 videos on Friday (14 July) at 9am, where female sector leaders share the lessons they have learned and moving forward. Premium subscribers also receive access to four other databases: the Propel Multi-Site Database,
produced in association with Virgate; the New Openings Database;
the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage;
and the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database.
Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email email@example.com to upgrade your subscription
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David Lloyd Leisure eyes overseas expansion as owners explore options including possible sale: Health and leisure business David Lloyd Leisure is eyeing overseas expansion as its owners explores its options, including a possible sale. Russell Barnes, chief executive of the brand, which has 130 outlets in nine countries, told This Is Money his ambition is to increase the number of clubs, “particularly on the Continent”. He added: “We have a pipeline that goes out for the next five years.” He also wants to make the clubs more luxurious, with “spa retreats, steam rooms, saunas and outdoor spa pools all in a very high-end environment”. He added: “We are investing many tens of millions. Last year, it was around £100m.” It comes as the group’s owners, private equity group TDR Capital, explores its options for David Lloyd Leisure, including a possible sale. TRD, which acquired the group from L&R in 2013, has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to look at its options, with a sale price of £2b upwards being speculated. The process is in the very early stages. Barnes, who joined the company in 2015 as chief operating officer after 26 years at entertainment group Merlin, and who stepped up to be chief executive in 2021, said: “They are private equity, so of course at some point they want to crystallise their investment. They have always been utterly supportive. They have backed our vision.” The chain lost 14% of its members during the pandemic, which Barnes considers a good outcome under the circumstances. “It was still a seismic loss of income,” he concedes. The business lost £51m before tax in 2021, less than half of the £108m of red ink the previous year when covid was at its peak, but it was still painful. There has, he said, been an “extraordinary” bounce-back, with membership back up to 730,000 – an increase of 25% on the pre-covid numbers. The rise has been led by the UK – visits to the UK clubs in June were up 15% on last year – despite the fact that membership packages range from £100 to £200 a month during a cost-of-living crisis. “Our membership does tend to be middle class and affluent,” said Barnes. “We are monitoring the data. If you are coming off a two-year fixed-rate mortgage, it is pretty brutal. That is exactly the conversation we’re having: at what point does [the cost-of-living crisis] bite?” Barnes gave out free meals in February and March, and every staff member was handed a £100 cash gift at Christmas, while the last two pay awards were 6%. Whoever ends up taking on ownership, Barnes added: “We would never consider changing the name. David Lloyd’s brother Tony still does coaching in our Raynes Park club near Wimbledon, and Scott, David’s son, sits on our board.”
Cancer charity calls for clampdown on junk food and cheap alcohol: A leading health charity has called for a clampdown on cheap alcohol and junk food amid a surge in liver cancer deaths. Unhealthy diets have fuelled a 40% rise in fatalities from the disease in the past decade, according to the British Liver Trust. It is now the fastest rising cause of cancer deaths in the UK, with mortality rates more than tripling since the early 1970s. Trust chief executive Pamela Healy told The Observer: “The key drivers for the increase in cases and deaths are alcohol and obesity. Too many of us are drinking too much alcohol and are overweight. We urgently need government action on both issues. The government must urgently tackle the accessibility and abundance of unhealthy food which is often significantly cheaper.” A department spokesman said action to encourage healthier food and drink choices plus tackle obesity included calorie labelling on food sold in restaurants, cafes and takeaways. “Obesity costs the NHS around £6.5bn a year and is the second biggest cause of cancer,” he added. “The NHS has seen and treated record numbers of cancer patients over the last two years and cancer is being diagnosed at an earlier stage more often.”
Almost half of all women approaching state pension age plan to keep working: Almost half of women aged between 50 and 65 plan to continue working after they reach state pension age, research suggests. A study of official statistics found that nearly one in two in the age group planned to stay in work beyond 66 – either on their existing hours or reduced hours. Significantly fewer women than men plan to rely on a private pension in retirement, the report from Rest Less suggested. Stuart Lewis, chief executive of Rest Less, said: “Years of gender-based earnings disparity has resulted in a large pension savings gap between men and women, leaving many women in their 50s and 60s in real financial precarity. Nearly half of women aged 50-65 said they plan to continue working in some capacity after reaching state pension age – a number that is likely to have risen even further given the subsequent cost of living crisis. Women can also find it more difficult to return to work after a period of unemployment or inactivity. They are far more likely to have taken time out to care for children, parents or a relative than their male counterparts, which puts them at a natural disadvantage. In the last recession of 2009, women could retire at 60 and receive the state pension. While the state pension age for men and women may now be equal, this data shows that the retirement fortunes of men and women remain anything but equal.”
Daily Mail – ‘I think chef’s jobs are safe for now after I was cooked lunch by a £50,000 robot but waited 40 minutes for a vegan soup’: The Daily Mail has declared that chefs’ jobs are “safe for now” after it sent a reporter to have his lunch cooked by a £50,000 robot – and waited 40 minutes for a vegan soup. The newspaper sent Jonathan Chadwick to the London showroom for Moley Chef’s Table, a new kitchen appliance from Moley Robotics, a London company run by Russian entrepreneur Mark Oleynik. Consumers who have the funds can buy Chef’s Table for their homes, but it is also intended for airports, hospitals and even in restaurants to help out chefs. “This can work 24/7 – no chef wants to cook a steak at 2am,” Oleynik, who founded the company in 2015, told the Mail. Chef’s Table is not capable of dishes that involve fiddly preparation stages, such as sushi, but will take care of the more repetitive aspects of cooking such as soup that needs to be left to boil or risotto that needs constant stirring. “I’m not worried about replacing repetitive operations because no-one wants to do it,” Oleynik said. The bot cooks an omelette in around five minutes, and Chadwick said: “It tastes good, but an omelette is pretty hard to screw up even for a robot, so next is something more challenging – a soup made from scratch. I have to admit, a total cooking time of 42 minutes seemed a bit much, and if this was in a restaurant kitchen, the head chef would probably shout at it to hurry up with certain expletives. I think the best setting for Chef’s Table will be airports; I can imagine tapping my card to pay for a quick robot-made meal before my departure, although I’d be careful to choose one of the quicker options to avoid missing my flight.” Oleynik, meanwhile, added: “In ten years we will see a lot of these machines. It will be a routine thing.”