'Perfect storm' - Pub boss on recruitment struggle as customer demand soars

Chestnut Group managing director Philip Turner is concerned about the effects of the economic crisis

Chestnut Group managing director Philip Turner. - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A pub group owner has warned of a struggle to fill job vacancies - because people are more hesitant to apply for roles in the hospitality industry after Covid.

Philip Turner - chief executive of The Chestnut Group, which has a collection of pubs, inns, and restaurants in East Anglia - said recruitment has always been a challenge in the hospitality industry.

However, he said the issue is even greater post-Covid due to the uncertainties facing the industry and job security. 

Mr Turner described the situation as the "perfect storm", as he believes many people are making career decisions based on the lockdown, rather than what they might want to do.

"There is an excessive demand from customers as everyone is desperate to get out and see their friends and family, but it is a challenge for us.


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"Normally we would have university students and college students looking for summer work, but many people will be looking for jobs not affected by lockdowns such as lettuce picking."

According to CV Library1, job postings in April 2021 were up 37% month on month for roles in the hospitality industry, and there was a huge 395% increase compared to the same month last year.

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Despite the huge influx in job ads, job seekers are clearly remaining hesitant to apply for roles - with 335,000 fewer people employed in the hospitality industry compared to last year, according to the ONS.

Mr Turner said lots of people who moved away from the hospitality industry due to the multiple lockdowns want to return to their jobs, but many are concerned of further restrictions. 

"Lots of people who moved away from the hospitality industry want to come back," he explained.

"But many are aware of the three to four week window that they may not be eligible for furlough if they change jobs.

"People want to come and work for us but they don't dare move employers in fear of another lockdown."

One of Mr Turner's popular businesses is The Northgate Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, which is currently open five days a week from Wednesday to Sunday.

He said the demand is there for the hotel to be open seven days a week - and that this would be preferred - but he does not have the staff. 

"Wellbeing comes ahead of our revenue, so as much as we would like to be open seven days a week, we just don't have a big enough team," he said.  

"It's also ironic that the furlough scheme, which was a saviour for the hospitality industry, is now strangling us a bit as it's stopping us being able to recruit people."

Data published this week by the Office for National Statistics and the Department for Work and Pensions showed that the claimant count was returning to pre-pandemic levels as job postings continues to rise.

In the East of England, the employment rate now stands at 78% between the ages of 16 and 64 for the time period of January to March this year.

This is up 1% from the previous three months.

Conversely, unemployment is also falling at 3.9% - down 0.6% for the previous time frame, according to the ONS.

Both figures put the East of England ahead of the UK average, which sees employment at 75.2% and the unemployment rate at 4.8%.

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