Four Solutions to Help Food Businesses Overcome the Recruitment Crisis

Recent figures reveal that one in four hospitality businesses have been forced to close their doors due to an ‘endemic’ of staff shortages.

Exacerbated by Brexit and Covid, the hospitality recruitment crisis had been building for years. Now, the problem has spiralled horribly out of control, culminating in a record high 174,000 hospitality vacancies according to trade body UKHospitality.

During the height of summer, when hospitality businesses generate around three-quarters of their annual turnover (especially coastal businesses), staff-enforced closures can be the difference between survival and insolvency.

While the recruitment crisis is undoubtedly predicated on the current economic climate, there are several approaches that hospitality businesses can take to alleviate its burden.

Based on conversations with our partners and customers at Klipspringer – and our twenty years’ experience as the leading compliance provider across the complete food industry – we’ve compiled a few solutions for overcoming staff shortages.

Read on to find out what these are.

Solution #1 – Opening Hours

Amid the current crisis, many venues are radically altering their approach to service, placing greater emphasis on improving the treatment of their staff teams, and convenience for their customers.

Crucially, this involves reducing opening hours. While some may be aghast at the prospect of fewer hours, evidence suggests that businesses which optimise their opening hours are less likely to face bankruptcy.

This is because these venues waste less time and resources remaining open during times in which it is not profitable to do so. Pinpointing exactly when these times are is unique to each business, but a good place to start is with an appraisal of peak and non-peak hours, based on a typical day.

When setting opening hours, it is also worth considering the competition, holidays, special events, and – above all – customers. The best way is simply to ask them; release a simple poll or micro-survey enquiring which operating hours would be most convenient for them, via social media, email, or even face-to-face.

Solution #2 – Menus

While menu change is a gamble, it is undeniably necessary in the current climate. As hospitality businesses recognise the need to offer more lucrative staff wages, conditions, and perks, many reach the inevitable conclusion that they must do similar numbers over fewer hours with fewer staff.

For hospitality venues, simplifying the number of menu options available is often easier to manage. During Covid-19, even the largest chains decreased menu offerings to satisfy investors and remain profitable – often without any negative customer feedback.

The benefits of a smaller menu include:

  • Easier to train new employees
  • Faster cook times
  • Higher-quality meals
  • Reduced waste
  • Less inventory to manage
  • Decreased restaurant costs

While removing menu options that have long been cornerstones to a business is hard, it may be a necessary step in staying afloat and profitable. To do so, we recommend five logical steps:

  1. Cost Evaluate the Menu
  2. Categorise Menu Items According to Profit and Popularity
  3. Design a New Menu
  4. Test the New Menu
  5. Implement the Successful Aspects of the New Menu

Solution #3 – Streamlined Systems

With an increasing scarcity of staff, food businesses must ensure that their workplace systems are airtight – whether that be relating to production or service. Re-evaluating and, if necessary, reorganising the efficiency of current systems through the implementation of effective products and services is a crucial step in freeing up employee time for more pressing tasks.

Examples include digital quality management systems, shadow boards, or thermometer probe verification devices. For a specific idea of how product or service implementation can revolutionise large-scale food service, read this case study about how Five Guys improved their standards, efficiency, and compliance using a Food Oil Monitor.

Solution #4 – Culture

When making enquiries amongst the food sector – from hospitality workers and managers to factory production personnel – one factor continues to resurface: culture.

As raised above, the recruitment crisis was festering long before Brexit or Covid. These factors massively catalysed the problem, but were pre-existed by a widespread culture of poor employee treatment.

For years, workers tolerated a culture of extremely long working-hours and undervalued pay due to job scarcity. Zero-hour contracts gave employers the right to fire staff at any moment, a phenomenon seen repeatedly following the initial Covid-19 lockdown.

The ball is now in the other court. Knowing that businesses desperately need qualified, experienced workers, employees simply will not stand for subpar working conditions. Companies which have prioritised employee welfare for years have, unsurprisingly, been least affected by the staff shortages – but many companies are now re-evaluating their priorities. Better late than never.

This article has summarised the factors fuelling the current UK recruitment crisis, and provided some concrete solutions for food industry businesses to implement.

Should you have any enquiries or questions, our knowledgeable team are more than happy to help. Feel free to reach us by phone: 01473 461 800.