Suffolk hospitality business leaders confident Brexit won’t bring staff shortages

Philip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, the restaurants, pubs and hotels business

Philip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, the restaurants, pubs and hotels business - Credit: Archant

Hospitality business leaders in Suffolk say they feel confident they will be able to attract staff despite warnings that Brexit and high employment rates are limiting the availability of workers.

Tarnia Robertson, managing director of Ufford Park Woodbridge. Picture Paul Nixon, Paul Nixon Phot

Tarnia Robertson, managing director of Ufford Park Woodbridge. Picture Paul Nixon, Paul Nixon Photography - Credit: Archant

Experts have warned the future of the hotel and restaurant sector lies with the flow of skilled labour from Europe and raised worries the impact of Brexit on foreign workers combined with record high employment is leaving positions unfilled.

Chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, Ufi Ibrahim, said in a statement: “The hospitality industry already has over 100,000 job vacancies at any given time and over 700,000 members of our 3.2 million workforce are from the EU.

“Our industry recognises that immigration policy must change but, at a time when unemployment is at its lowest since 1975, any material and sudden change to the supply of workforce to the UK labour market would have severe consequences for the hospitality industry.”

But Philip Turner, CEO of The Chestnut Group, which operates six restaurants, pubs and hotels in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said a shortage of workers from the EU will most likely affect national chains, who tend to have a higher turnover of staff and employ a greater percentage of EU nationals.

He added: “Only around 5% of our staff are non-British. From the very start we have taken on people - many from the local community - who will grow with the business and who want to make a career in hospitality.

“We have developed the Chestnut Academy Programme, for example, which invests in people and guarantees them a management position if they complete the two-year programme.

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At Ufford Park Woodbridge Hotel, managing director Tarnia Robertson said the issue would have a greater impact on businesses based in urban areas.

“We are in a rural setting and tend to have British staff, so Brexit is unlikely to affect us,” she said. “But in the towns and cities, where there are more foreign-born workers and better transport links, hotels are likely to employ more people from the EU. Housekeeping, and bar and restaurant positions tend to have the highest turnover. These are jobs that British workers tend not to see as careers.”