Professional Comment

Staff Shortages: The Next Big Challenge for Hospitality

By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced that from 24 February, people in England will no longer be needed to self-isolate themselves even if they test positive, making it the first major economy to replace legal requirements to self-isolate with guidance.Also, vaccinated travellers arriving in the country are no longer required to take a covid-test but need to fill out a passenger locator form. However, some scientists have warned that the easing of restrictions too early may leave vulnerable people exposed.

The Hospitality sector is supposed to be the biggest beneficiary of the development as it has suffered a lot due to the pandemic restrictions and is making all efforts for a bounce back.


Easing Covid restrictions and increasing consumer confidence led UK’s managed restaurants, bars, and pub groups to report a sales increase of 3% in January, compared to what it was in the same month in 2019.The increase also indicates a strong recovery from December’s fall in sales.

Restaurants were the strongest performing business with 4% growth in January 2019, followed by pubs businesses with 2% growth. However, bar businesses saw a dip in sales by 3%, as the legal requirement for vaccination passes and concerns overcrowded venues cancelled late night parties and events.


At the start of the year, the number of unfilled vacancies across the country reached a record high of almost 1.3 million, with the accommodation and food services sector seeing the largest increase in job vacancies.

According to recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of job vacancies in the UK Hospitality industry has increased by around 100,000 in the last two years.

Vacancies in the hospitality sector increased by more than 700% from November 2021 to January 2022 as compared to the same period a year ago, and there are over 178,000 job vacancies in the accommodation and foodservice sector.This is a major uptick from the 84,000 staff vacancies seen across the hospitality sector between January and March 2020.Vacancies per 100 employee jobs are predicted to up by 7.9%, which is the highest of any job category as per the data of the ONS.


Hospitality, the worst affected industry, is desperate to operate fully for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, but the staff shortage is forcing UK pubs, hotels, and restaurants to shut their doors or reduce their working hours.The industry is struggling to recruit skilled workers despite offering pay raises and better conditions.

Covid pandemic coupled with the departure of European workers after Brexit has led to a serious staff crisis in the hospitality sector.This is a threat for the industry, which has little or no cash reserves and carries huge debts, especially when from April it will face a rise in labour costs,VAT and business rates.

There is a need to tackle the supply chain challenges and offer greater flexibility in current employment and skills initiatives to meet challenges of staffing and retaining skilled employees to help drive the economic recovery, as a pathway back to pre-pandemic situations is essential for its survival.