The boss of Wagamama has said the restaurant chain is struggling to hire chefs at a fifth of its sites, as companies across the economy warn of recruitment difficulties.
The end of most coronavirus pandemic restrictions in the UK has led to a bounce back in demand for the hospitality industry, which was among the hardest-hit sectors. However, many restaurants, bars and hotels are struggling to find enough workers to fill roles.
Wagamama, which serves pan-Asian food, has been hit by shortages of staff from Europe following Brexit immigration restrictions, its chief executive, Thomas Heier, told the Press Association, with difficulties at 30 of its 147 sites.
“We’ve seen a reduction in our EU workforce in particular,” Heier said, “but the other thing we’re seeing is increased competition from logistics and delivery firms who are struggling with an increased number of vacancies.”
UKHospitality, an industry lobby group, has described the shortage of staff as “critical”. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that there was a 10% vacancy rate in the hospitality sector, equivalent to 210,000 roles.
Ratings agency Fitch last week said the movement of workers out of the UK back to the EU had been “intensified by Brexit”. It added that European employers were facing similar challenges, although freedom of movement between EU countries coupled with higher unemployment meant the problems were less acute.
Wagamama, which is part of The Restaurant Group, the owner of Garfunkel’s and Chiquito among other brands, also reported unseasonally high demand. While UK domestic restrictions on movement and socialising have been lifted, travel abroad to many popular destinations is still restricted, meaning that spending has been directed elsewhere.
“It’s a perfect storm of higher than normal demand, with supply chain challenges in the mix and a shortage of staff on the logistics side,” said Heier.
Food prices could also rise, Heier said. “I don’t think we or anyone else are out of the water yet.”