This report recognises hospitality as an ‘art’ form, looking closely at the challenges facing the industry, such as the enduring staffing and skills shortages and the threat of Brexit.
We commissioned independent research to investigate the following questions:
What really goes into cultivating the ‘art of hospitality’?
Does the UK truly appreciate the ‘art of hospitality’?
What more can the nation do to prevent Brexit from ruining Britain’s reputation for being leaders in the ‘art of hospitality’?
Our mission is to encourage businesses to work together to ensure the UK hospitality sector continues to survive and thrive whatever the outcome of Brexit, with staff recruitment and retention as the keys to success.SKIP TO SUMMARY
Foreword from the Institute of Hospitality
The greatest challenge facing the hospitality industry today is the shortage of skilled staff at all levels. There is no doubt that the industry offers fantastic careers to everyone, of all ages and all backgrounds. The world is your oyster when plotting a hospitality career. The industry, to survive in these turbulent socio political and economic days, has to be the career of choice for youngsters starting out in their careers. Additionally, we need to be highlighting role models and shouting what a great and fun career it really is. And as we know, it’s not just limited to traditional stereotypical roles – in this digital age, with the gig economy and ever changing conventions and disruptors, the scope and breadth of roles and salaries is enormous. To underpin this, as alluded to above, we must work harder at attracting and, crucially, retaining our teams.
Training, training, training is key to unlocking success, as well as a far wider complement of employee benefits and recognition of the changing cultures in our teams, the environment and their wellbeing. To augment this, as this paper clearly shows, more time and effort than ever before must be invested into hospitality teams.
The Institute of Hospitality has always been at the forefront of hospitality education from our early days in our previous guises, right up to the present time. We overarch all sectors of this great industry and are seen to be the go-to thought leaders in helping shape the future of hospitality management. We also aim to bridge the gap between operators and academics and help hospitality students shape their careers. Attract, train and retain are three key aspects that all hospitality professionals should have as their mantra."
- Alistair N Sandall FIH
Head of Professional Development, Institute of Hospitality
Introduction: Thriving Post-Brexit
The UK hospitality industry encompasses four main sectors - food and beverage; accommodation; recreation; and travel and tourism. For the purposes of this report, we commissioned unique, independent research, questioning 250 hotel, bar and restaurant business owners and managers and more than 1,000 members of the public. The findings are pertinent across the entire industry, as we uncovered that:
- The UK is currently perceived by the public to offer the friendliest hospitality in Europe
- The majority (70%) of people repeat visit a hospitality business based on good service alone
- The jobs most at risk as a result of Brexit are serving staff (80%) and bartenders/baristas (64%)
- More needs to be done to encourage recruits and existing staff to pursue careers in the industry
- Better mental health support and more visible role models are needed to achieve this
Businesses must champion the many diverse career opportunities and routes into the sector, in order to ensure Britain upholds its reputation as being best in class. This will encourage repeat custom and support business growth in a post-Brexit world.
Our unique data puts the threats facing the sector into context and sets out an action plan to mitigate the challenges ahead. Let’s take a more detailed look at the current state of play in the next section.
Celebrating the 'Art of Hospitality'
For the majority behind this vibrant industry, hospitality is more than just a job; it is a passion, an opportunity to express creativity - a form of ‘art.’ For the public, dining out is not just ‘eating,’ it is a whole experience, a time to let go and encounter new senses. As a nation, do we champion the industry as much as we should?
We asked a sample of people from across the UK to rank European countries in order of friendliness for hospitality. According to public opinion, the UK is best in class. Nearly 50% of respondents within the industry itself also agree that the UK deserves pole position, second only to Spain.
Which European Nation has the friendliest hospitality?
Click to flip between public opinion and industry opinion.
This came as quite a shock to some professionals in the industry…
Ira Silverman enjoyed a busy career in fine dining as a yacht chef for 15 years and now owns an in demand catering service and cafe in the heart of Leeds; she said:
“I was gobsmacked to find out we are thought to have the friendliest hospitality. I feel like, as a nation, our appreciation for food and the attitude toward dining has changed entirely, with the rise of fast-casual dining. This is possibly one of the reasons why the industry is struggling for staff. However, hospitality is so much more than just eating. It is a whole experience from start to finish and that’s where we’re lacking.”
We asked the public what will ensure they keep coming back to a restaurant, and sure enough…
Quality of service is considered a critical factor for the UK public when deciding whether to repeat visit a restaurant, bar or hotel. Over two-thirds (70%) say that they would return to an establishment on this basis alone.
The link between quality of service, quality of food and business success is clear. It is more important than price, menu selection and even location according to members of the public.
Reasons for returning to a restaurant
We asked the public which factors were most important to them in choosing whether to repeat visit a restaurant.
Quality of Food
Quality of Service
Our research points to the ingredients that make up the ‘art of hospitality’ - high quality food and excellent customer service, both of which require a broad skill set. We believe this is something Britain should be proud of– and aim to protect – as the UK enters a new era post-Brexit. The industry must take steps now to ensure the excellence that’s expected by the public is delivered as standard.
Let’s look at what might be holding the industry back...
Job Roles Most at Risk Post-Brexit
Hospitality has the largest staff shortfall of all UK sectors and a widening skills gap – including a declining number of catering college students and ‘home-grown’ qualified recruits. The industry has a strong reliance on migrant workers, and with Brexit expected to bring with it tighter immigration rules, there are wide concerns that these issues will grow.
With the overseas workforce set to become harder to access, businesses need contingency plans that consider how the quality of service currently being delivered can be maintained to ensure any negative impacts to the bottom line are minimised.
An overwhelming 97% of hospitality business owners and those in management positions expect a shortfall in staff following Brexit - hampering the UK’s ability to continue servicing customers to the current high standards.
To make matters worse, more than one-in-ten hospitality managers are expecting to employ fewer people as a result of a ‘hard’ Brexit. Serving staff roles are the most at risk, according to 80% of professionals, with hotel manager positions predicted to be least affected at 10%.
Which job roles are most at risk post-Brexit?
Click a job role to rate the risk
Whilst a huge variety of hospitality roles are likely to be affected by Brexit - such as room attendants, porters and event managers - the research provides a snapshot of the state-of-play for some of the key positions in the sector.
So how can the UK’s industry aim to ensure it retains its reputation as a leader in quality service and preserve the skills needed to perform ‘art of hospitality’?
Be proactive! One-in-six respondents feel that the UK doesn’t have the workforce available to fill any future shortfalls, so businesses need to be on the front foot with developing an action plan as soon as possible to mitigate the challenges ahead. This report outlines steps that might be taken.
Recruiting and Retaining the Right Staff
In order to maintain the UK’s reputation for being leaders in the ‘art of hospitality’, staffing issues must be addressed from an industry-wide perspective. Bridging the increasing skills gap and shortfall of workers will take a united effort, but this is crucial to ensure that good levels of service continue to bring repeat business.
This means assessing and understanding how hospitality careers are perceived – from both a public and a professional point of view - and highlighting viable career choices aligned to the profile and prestige of hospitality in the UK.
There are simple steps that can be taken to drive recruitment and encourage retention within the sector. Education around available routes into hospitality will help recruit workers, while rewarding existing staff with better training and progression opportunities will help businesses to keep them.
One of the biggest challenges facing hospitality in the UK is the lingering perception that hospitality is a ‘stop-gap’ career choice, leading to an ever present need to recruit and train new staff. However, demand is consistently high for more recruits to come forward – making hospitality a confident choice for those looking for a new role.
A third of the public feel that roles in the hospitality industry offer little progression and are not 'careers for life'. In order to recruit new UK workers, a more positive perception of the different types of careers and the opportunities they represent is key.
If young people are exposed to negativity, a misconception or otherwise have a lack of awareness around a specific career route, there’s little incentive to opt-in.
The biggest barriers that are currently limiting the number of people pursuing hospitality roles, according to the general population, are:
- Perceptions around salaries being low
- Perceptions that the roles are low-skilled
- Perceptions that hospitality roles offer little progression and are not ‘careers for life’
- Perceptions that roles in hospitality are hard, physical work
- Perceptions around stress in the workplace
- Lack of awareness of opportunities
The public indicated that the best way to overcome these barriers and encourage more staff to take roles in hospitality is through offering higher pay. 41% pointed to the availability of government-sponsored apprenticeships. Greater emphasis on professional training and development, and more visible career opportunities and success stories through the championing of the sector in popular culture and media, would help further. Industry respondents also strongly confirm these views.
How can the UK encourage more staff to take roles in hospitality?
The public said:
Heath Ball is a well-known name on the London pub scene, famously overhauling the Red Lion & Sun and going on to be crowned John Smith’s ‘British Pub of the Year’ in 2018. He shares his views on the perception of the industry:
“Hospitality is a massive industry in the UK but it is not protected in the same way that it is in other countries. In Australia, they have unions for hospitality. It's taken a lot more seriously. It is getting better in the UK, with the rise of cooking programmes for instance, but there’s still a long way to go.
“There is a perception that what we do isn't a serious career choice. Yet in other countries, such as Switzerland, they have incredibly prestigious catering schools making it a celebrated career path.
“As a nation, we could do more to recognise the achievements of hospitality staff, and not just the ones from a certain demographic either. Giving the industry the recognition it deserves would help to change the current perception and, in turn, encourage recruits - as has been demonstrated by other countries.”
Service standards and the ‘art of hospitality’ in the UK arguably have the best chance of being maintained through the retention of workers who’ve already chosen to embark upon a career in the industry.
We asked those on the front line what they believe would be the most effective way to encourage staff to pursue longer term career paths in the sector.
97% of managers working in the hospitality sector admit there are barriers limiting the number of UK people pursuing paths in hospitality – with 43% citing high stress levels as a key barrier to engaging and retaining workers.
Interestingly, male managers indicated better wellbeing and mental health support in the workplace was the single most important factor for encouraging more staff to take roles in hospitality, ahead of offering higher wages. Female managers were more inclined to call out for greater visibility of progression opportunities and career prestige in popular culture and the media.
Male toxicity abounds in this sector and the findings suggest that this is detrimental and highly stressful to any gender. There is a clear need for more positive role models to be made visible and championed both inside and outside the industry. This can be achieved by highlighting success stories which counter the misconceptions around career and salary limitations.
A cultural overhaul is needed to ensure that those in the industry are ambassadors and that they motivate fellow colleagues to continue to progress their hospitality careers.
Improving both parental involvement and appropriate education in schools are also approaches that are favoured by industry professionals to onboard and retain hospitality workers. Entry level staff can be encouraged by the knowledge that a first step in this sector isn’t the only step. This will motivate more people to enter the industry at a service level and explore the training and development which will lead to a long and fulfilling career.
How can the UK encourage more staff to take roles in hospitality?
The industry said:
Training and Skills Development
To stay forerunners and preserve the detail that goes into the ‘art of hospitality’, it is important to be aware of the skills required to deliver the highest service levels. This will help to identify new recruits with an aptitude for the job and, likewise, the training needs among existing staff.
We asked industry leaders to rank the skills that UK workers typically fall behind on in comparison to their European counterparts. Over half (53%) of industry managers feel that having a strong work ethic and commitment is the competency area most lacking in UK workers. Despite this perceived lack of work ethic, 80% believe that the UK is ahead of other European nations when it comes to customer service and communication skills.
Interpersonal skills, conflict resolution and safety and hygiene awareness are all additional skills that UK hospitality workers are perceived to be falling behind on. These are areas that could be improved through investment in greater staff training and development.
Which 'Art of Hospitality' skills do UK workers fall behind on compared to their European counterparts?
We asked the public which essential skills they think the UK lack compared to the rest of Europe:
Strong work ethic
Safety and hygiene
Post-Brexit Action Plan
Despite the challenges, success in a post-Brexit world is possible. Businesses must focus on upholding the quality of service that we know is imperative to ensure repeat custom. We must also continue to address pervading staffing issues.
This mission to ‘Save our Service’ requires those in the industry to come together to champion its collective strengths, while tackling the now known barriers to recruitment and retention. It’s time to engage, educate and enthuse the public, including those already working in hospitality, about the many fulfilling and prestigious opportunities available.
Together, a commitment to attracting and retaining more skilled workers – ensuring staff are well trained, supported and rewarded with fair rates of pay and clear career opportunities – will help to cushion any consequences of Brexit.
Collectively, we can start by looking at these three areas:
Offer a great place to work, factoring in wellbeing and entry level wages
It is widely acknowledged that hospitality roles can be stressful, and more needs to be done to support employees. Implementing mental health and wellbeing support programmes can protect staff – with measures that include sick leave, regular one-to-ones between managers and employees, health champions and mental health first aiders. In addition to a greater retention of staff, these packages of support will also help tackle the negative perceptions of the sector and mitigate against unfavourable press and portrayals – leading to hospitality being represented in a more constructive light. Address potential sources of stress, including concerns regarding fair pay. Signing up to the Living Wage Foundation would demonstrate commitment to ensuring all staff are fairly rewarded for their contribution.
Change perceptions by inviting employees to be industry champions
Having happy and motivated staff can pay back dividends when it comes to helping to spread the word for more people to come forward and enjoy fulfilling careers. Encourage everyone in the team from the bottom up to pursue career paths within the business – and to share their own success stories via social media and participate in company PR and marketing activity. Working in hospitality can be sociable, fun, dynamic, high-energy, challenging and rewarding. It can also be flexible for those with other responsibilities and commitments. Who better to act as a positive role model and challenge perceptions that are currently acting as a barrier to recruitment, than those that are already achieving great things within the industry?
Urge influential figures to alter the language placed around hospitality career choices
Our report has picked up on negative perceptions among the public which position hospitality as a ‘low-skilled’ or ‘stop-gap’ career choice. When asked how we can encourage recruitment in the sector, parents and schools play a key part in the way they communicate the career options within the industry - as do more visibility of progression opportunities and career prestige. As well as hospitality employers championing their staff, we need the public to add to the positive discourse if they want to preserve the ‘friendliest’ sector as they know it.
Two Minute Summary
We position hospitality, and its many associated skills, as an ‘art’ form that Britain should be proud of and wish to protect. We looked into the challenges that threaten this dynamic industry, such as the staffing and skills shortages, how Brexit could make things worse and how the sector can unite to preserve the ‘art of hospitality’.
Our unique, independent research shows:
- The UK is currently perceived to offer the friendliest hospitality service in Europe
- Most people repeat visit a hospitality business based purely on the quality of service
- Serving staff (80%) and bartenders/baristas (64%) jobs are most at risk
- Better mental health support and more visible role models will help improve staff retention
In public opinion, the UK offers the friendliest hospitality compared to other countries in Europe. Industry insiders agree, placing UK second to Spain. The UK’s reputation for the ‘art of hospitality’ is something to celebrate – particularly when this is considered alongside the fact that 70% of people will repeat visit a restaurant, bar, hotel or similar hospitality business purely based on the quality of service.
With this so closely linked to business success and reputation, it is of great concern that 97% of hospitality business owners and managers believe staff shortages will worsen following Brexit. 80% expect service roles to be the most at risk, followed by 64% that point to bartenders and baristas. One-in-six feel the UK doesn’t currently have the workforce available to fill future shortfalls, so it’s clear that urgent action is needed to recruit and retain employees.
Barriers affecting the uptake of roles in hospitality include negative perceptions that prevail among the general public. These relate to low wages, jobs being low skilled, that they are not ‘careers for life’, that they are hard, physical work, that they are stressful and a general lack of awareness of the opportunities available.
How to overcome these barriers and improve recruitment and retention:
- 60% of the public pointed towards offering higher wages
- 41% of the public pointed towards offering more government-sponsored apprentices
- Male managers in hospitality businesses point to the provision of workplace wellbeing and mental health support
- Female managers in hospitality businesses point to greater visibility of progression opportunities and career prestige in popular culture and the media
To protect the ‘art of hospitality’ in the UK, encourage business success through repeat custom and navigate the impact of Brexit on existing staff shortages, it’s important that the industry does everything it can to boost skills and drive forward recruitment and retention.
Actions that can be taken by hospitality businesses include:
- Implementing mental health and wellbeing support programmes
- Consider joining the Living Wage Foundation and raising pay for entry level staff
- Spread the word about success stories in the industry. Showcase the many career opportunities, and associated prestige, available to those that pursue a path in hospitality