By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
The hospitality sector was perhaps the biggest to feel the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. Even at present, many restaurants are not just forced to operate in a restricted manner when it comes to day-to-day operations but are also struggling with the workforce crisis.
While consumer spending continued to rise in the UK at a consistent pace, it remains lower than the pre-pandemic levels.The workforce has dropped considerably compared to last year. ONS stats released earlier in September reveal that the accommodation and food services workforce stood at 2371 million in June 21, compared to the same period in March 2020, which stood at 2537 million.
According to ONS, the UK was short of the workforce, with 388,000 job openings listed in the period from August to October 2021.This figure was more than the first quarter of 2020, with record highs in 15 of its 18 sector categories.
UK hospitality is revered by tourists and domestic clients for its diverse facilities and nightclubs. But the sad fact is that they have been operating on thin margins, and the rising labour costs, rents, and food costs have, in fact, just aggravated their suffe ings. Despite lifting the restrictions, UK pubs and bars are still reorganizing their businesses and are pretty keen to explore new areas to run the business from.
HOLIDAY SEASON WILL INCREASE PRESSURE
But the significant lack of ability to either rehire the same resource or hire new ones, coupled with consumers’ willingness to step out of their homes, is piling up pressure on the stressed sector.This has forced them to seek alternate avenues wherein they can keep the business running. As the pandemic looks to taper off and the holiday season is soon approaching, the hospitality industry will need to expedite finding a skilled workforce.
Few restaurants have taken the lead and have ventured into the world of AI & robotics to make up for the lack of resources. Diners around London have seen robots dressed up as waiters who are trained for day-to-day operations. Interestingly, these robots are being trained to correctly deliver orders to the correct table from the kitchen to the dining area.
Are robots in hospitality the future?
While robots do present an interesting idea, it will take some time before it gets implemented on a larger scale. Besides, if it gets implemented on a larger scale, it could only add to job woes that the hospitality sector is reeling at present. Besides, the workforce unions in the UK may not approve of the idea of robots in the hospitality sector as now that the restrictions are lifted, more and more people would like to return to work, and the use of robots could rob them of this privilege.
Heading in 2022, it won’t be a surprise to see both manual and robotic workforce at pubs, bars, restaurants etc. For those who can’t get the required workers, robots do present a viable business option and an option for others to run a business without a skilled workforce.