Competing For Staff - The Reality Facing The Catering Industry After Brexit

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The main reason for any business in reducing staff head count has always been to improve profitability, but Brexit has turned it into a necessity. This is because the UK experienced and enjoyed substantial inflow of Eastern Europeans since 2004, and about 750,000 of them are working in the catering industry, the 4th biggest employer in the UK. Fast forward to 2018, the main talking point is the shortage of skilled staff, they are now warning that it is becoming a crisis.

BBC.com reported ‘Prezzo the Italian restaurant chain is to close around 100 of its 300 stores’; ‘Burger chain Byron agreed a rescue plan with lenders and landlords which could lead to the closure of up to 20 restaurants’; ‘Jamie Oliver’s said 12 of its 37 outlets would shut their doors’ and ‘The Restaurant Group have lost two thirds of their market value’.

Brexit has introduced uncertainty for EU migrant workers, and a substantial fall in the value of sterling to the euro has made sending money back home less attractive. Many of them are choosing to, or already have, return to their own country where the economy is growing, or wanting to move to places like Australia or Canada where they feel more welcomed and prospects are more enticing. This is also true for Chinese migrants.

Using World food buffet restaurants as an example, they are increasing in popularity especially in the UK because of their universal appeal. These types of restaurants are well known to be labour intensive. A typical restaurant with seating for 350 customers needs around 25 staff, and seating for 700 customers needs a minimum of 50. Staff salary is also another cause for concern. In London, competition for staff has pushed up wages to £18.00 per hour, which is well over the £10.20 per hour living wage.

Knowing the Electronic Point-of-Sales (EPOS) system is at the heart of the restaurant operation, which existing EPOS system is best for buffet restaurants to enable them to reduce staff head count? In the last five years, a pay-on-entry EPOS system has been used successfully by some large buffet restaurant groups. This is not enough, restaurants are already doing their part to help themselves. They are introducing more flexible working hours, training more home-grown talents and doing their best to change the perception of the catering industry’s long and unsociable working hours to attract new workers. They are bringing in new technologies like robotic wok ranges capable of making stir fry dishes, and automated sushi preparation equipment to reduce staff head count. It is a good time to introduce innovative IT solutions to act as a disruptive agent and come up with management systems to change the way customers interact with restaurants with fewer staff present and at the same time improve customer satisfaction.

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