The UK hospitality industry has for decades relied on working alongside people from Europe and further afield to provide their core service: hospitality – noun – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
During the Covid-19 pandemic hospitality has largely been on hold, an industry closed for all intents and purposes that now, bruised and battered, wants to stand up again and help raise the country’s morale.
But, as the country also sets out to reawaken, hospitality’s ability to greet them and restart has been severely hampered. The limitations are a consequence of the mass exodus post Brexit of hundreds of thousands of non-UK nationals from the UK that worked in hospitality. People with the skills and experience necessary to aid hospitality in springing back into immediate action.
As international travel will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future, staycations are the option many more people will look for in summer 2021. The demand is already apparent, with many hospitality businesses dependant upon it to fuel a recovery from Covid.
So, a rise in demand for hospitality in the UK will require skilled and experienced people to deliver it.
The volume of jobs now open in hospitality is vastly higher than the volume of people available and qualified to fill them.
Recruiting, training, and developing people to fill the gap of at least 300,000 experienced people is simply not viable.
The recovery of the UK hospitality industry and its ability to deliver staycations in the weeks and months ahead can only be achieved if the Government relaxes freedom of movement laws for hospitality staff to enable the UK industry to recover.
The petition request is: The Government should ease immigration restrictions on EU nationals and other migrant workers with experience of working in the UK hospitality industry, at least temporarily, immediately. This could be achieved by creating a new hospitality visa or exempting non-UK nationals with relevant experience from immigration requirements.
Several high-profile hospitality figures are already behind the petition and providing their support including…
Claire Bosi, Editor of Chef and Restaurant Magazine: Bosi recently initiated and championed another hospitality petition, Minister for Hospitality, that went all the way to Parliament, and is still ongoing.
When Bosi learned that the Parliamentary Petitions Committee had approved the petition requesting easing of immigration restrictions for hospitality workers, some light was shed on her reasoning to support it. Bosi said: “2020 ignited a fire in the belly of the hospitality profession. We realised the worth of our sector and, for the first time, challenged government directly to create change that is necessary.
“The operators and owners of the hundreds of thousands of hospitality businesses around the UK know what action is needed to secure their businesses, recoup losses and begin to thrive once more. Presently, we do not have enough talent coming into the sector to maintain its levels of business, and the burgeoning ‘Great British Summer’ could mean closed doors or reduced capacity for businesses that have already been hit hard. We cannot operate without staff.
“Historically, we have always enjoyed welcoming our EU workforce into our Hospitality Family. Bringing skills, culture and fresh ideas into our kitchens and restaurants. Two of our most famous restaurant names, Roux and Blanc. Responsible for the training and development of some of the greatest UK born chefs today. How poorer would the UK be had those families not come over from their home countries and settled here?
“The issue of employment is immediate, and I hope this gets to parliament for debate very quickly. We need to be able to recruit from the EU, without lengthy paperwork and delays. Even is this were to be a temporary measure to redress the aftershock of the pandemic, and to allow us time to address the skills shortage within the sector.”
Harry Murray MBE, Chairman, Lucknam Park: Murray is a hotelier that needs no introduction, an industry figure at the forefront of improving hospitality for decades.
On hearing the news of the petition to ease immigration restrictions being approved by the Parliamentary Petitions Committee Murray emphasised his commitment to its success saying: “I supported Petition for a dedicated Minister of Hospitality from the start and all the way to debate in Parliament, I will do the same with this one. Failure to relax restrictions for EU & Non-EU Nationals will have serious consequences for businesses & ultimately the UK economy. So, I feel it is my duty to do so.”
Cyrus Todiwala OBE: Chef and restaurateur Cyrus Todiwala with his wife Pervin created one of the UK’s best known and most loved restaurants, Café Spice Namaste.
The Todiwala family know first-hand how much the pandemic has already cost hospitality as it forced the closure of the restaurant they loved after 25 years of success. Todiwala, a passionate supporter of the petition to ease restrictions on people coming to the UK to work in hospitality reflected on the situation saying: “Talking every day to fellow chefs it is all too apparent a storm is brewing.
“As the industry eagerly prepares to welcome back customers that have patiently stuck to government Covid guidelines, a profoundly serious shortage of experienced people is evident. Hundreds of thousands of our European colleagues have been forced to leave the UK because of Brexit. The British public that has been patient to date, will need to exhibit even more patience unless restrictions for EU & Non-EU Nationals are relaxed. I support this petition 100% and I know my fellow chefs will also.”
Brenda Collin FIH, Executive Vice President Europe, Preferred Hotels & Resorts: Collin is a true champion of hospitality as a career of choice. She is the newly appointed Chair of the Institute of Hospitality’s London Branch and holds the esteemed title as Fellow of the organisation, whose objective is to promote and celebrate excellence in hospitality and tourism education. In addition to supporting hospitality students through a variety of mentoring programs, she consistently fundraises for several organisations including Hospitality Action.
Collin oversees a portfolio of more than 130 hotels so has a perfect first-hand viewpoint of what is happening as hospitality gets ready to reopen. Delighted with the news the Parliamentary Petitions Committee approved the petition she told us: “The Hospitality staffing crisis is a ticking time bomb, a huge issue for our industry, driven partially by Brexit but also by the huge loss of jobs over the last year because of the pandemic. Quick and creative thinking is needed to bridge the gap for the immediate staycation season, as such we support H&C News’ petition requesting Government to ease restrictions and enable Europeans to work in UK hospitality.”
Robin Sheppard: Sheppard has been a hotelier for 40 plus years. In 2000 he co-founded Bespoke Hotels which grew to be the UK’s largest independent hotel group with over 200 properties. He won the Oxford Brookes award for Outstanding Contribution to the Hospitality Industry. Most recently he won the AA Lifetime Achievement Award to the Industry. He is also the Government’s Hospitality Sector Champion for Disabled People.
His greatest achievement, though, has been to fight back from GBS, a totally paralysing illness. His slow recovery inspired him to launch the www.bluebadgeaccessawards.com in conjunction with RIBA encouraging better design and empathy from architects, interior designers, and hospitality professionals alike.
Shepard was forthright in his view of the situation facing hospitality, and the need for the petition to succeed, saying: “In an act of stupefying self-harm we have cut off crucial labour supply, at the worst possible time, as we try to reboot our economy. A freedom-loving country, has abolished freedom of movement, denying us of the benefits of working with EU national colleagues that prior to Brexit were key.”
Robert Richardson FIH, Chief Executive, The Institute of Hospitality: “As our industry exits its greatest period of hardship in generations, we immediately find ourselves faced with a new challenge in staffing our operations.
“The shortage of available talent will bring additional, unnecessary, challenges to bear that will not just impact our ability to reopen and meet demand from a public that has missed us, but significantly diminish our contribution to the UK economy.
“A relaxation of the freedom of movement rules is the only sensible option to meet the challenge and allow our industry the ability to recover that it so badly needs.”
Wendy Bartlett, Founder, Bartlett Mitchell, said: “The sector is taking huge steps to do everything it can to encourage domestic recruitment of people into hospitality roles, however, that may still not be enough.
“There will be roles across the sector that require additional talent from abroad which is why we are supportive of any initiatives which aim to tackle some of the major people challenges we are likely to face.
“Our sector has faced an incredibly difficult period and our recovery relies on the brilliant people who make it what it is. Let’s hope that we can find a solution that helps to support one of the country’s most economically and socially important industries.”
The petition was approved far sooner than anticipated, so more hospitality leaders supporting the motion to relax freedom of movement laws to enable the UK hospitality industry to recover – will be added in the days ahead.
On behalf of our industry, I urge you to sign the petition, and ask everyone you know that works in our industry, and everyone that enjoys hospitality to also.
Hospitality is – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers – of all nationalities, and every creed and colour.