Hospitality EU Worker Numbers Drop Further as Brits Fill More Roles

With the hospitality sector continuing to battle labour shortages, the latest figures from Fourth, the leading global software provider for the hospitality and leisure industries, reveal that British workers are filling greater numbers of jobs in pubs, restaurants and hotels than ever before.

This trend has been consistent over the last six months, where the number of British workers in the sector has increased markedly, while the proportion of workers from the European Union (EU) has decreased, accelerated by disruption caused by the pandemic, changes to immigration policy and travel restrictions.

The new data, aggregated from the analysis of more than 700 companies across the restaurant, pub, bar and hotel sectors, reveals that:

  • EU workers currently make up 32% of the hospitality workforce, compared to 42% in October 2019
  • British workers currently make up 53% of the workforce, compared to 46% in October 2019
  • Workers from non-EU countries currently make up 15% of the workforce, compared to 11% in October 2019
  • The total sector headcount is tracking in line with this time last year, but is still down 18% compared to September 2019
  • According to Fourth’s data, there has been no furlough ‘cliff edge’ when it comes to job losses; there was only a 10% increase in people leaving the sector at the end of September compared to the end of August

These workforce trends are occurring across all sub-sectors of the industry, particularly over the last six months back to April, when COVID-19 trading restrictions were partially lifted.

The restaurant sector has experienced the biggest shift, with British workers currently making up 46% of the total workforce, compared to 40% six months ago in April. The proportion of EU restaurant workers has dropped from 47% in April to 39% now.

This is closely followed by the pub sector, where British workers currently make up 73% of the workforce, increasing from 68% in April. This has been offset by a decline in workers from the EU, as they represent just 20% of the workforce now, compared to 28% in April.

The hotel sector has experienced the smallest shift over the six-month period, likely because the sector hasn’t been able to bounce-back as quickly as restaurants and pubs due to strict travel restrictions remaining in place for longer periods. The proportion of British hotel workers has still grown from 57% in April to 60% currently; the number of EU workers has dropped from 28% to 24%.

Separately, Fourth’s data indicates that total staff headcount across the hospitality sector remains stable, tracking at the same level as this time last year (but down 18% on 2019), and has been growing consistently month-on-month since March. The size of the workforce grew marginally by 0.3% in September compared to August as operators upped their recruitment efforts.

Sebastien Sepierre, Managing Director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “Given the current climate, where labour shortages are continuing to prove incredibly challenging for operators, it’s clear there is a war for talent taking place in the hospitality sector. Vacancy rates are running at record levels and it’s evident the pool of EU workers has significantly reduced. Technology and digital solutions play an important role in navigating these waters, helping operators hire, onboard, engage and retain team members. Businesses will ultimately have to be smart with their labour scheduling strategies to ensure consumer demand continues to be met and the guest experience doesn’t suffer.”