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Where have all the people gone? –Shortage of skilled workers in the hospitality industry

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes

A gigantic exodus is raging in the hospitality industry, and it’s happening all over the world. One reason is the Corona pandemic, but the causes lie much deeper.

“We miss you,” was a recent title on the German hotel and hospitality magazine Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomiezeitung, which cited figures from the DEHOGA Bundesverband demonstrating the hospitality industry’s staff shortage. As of September 30, 2020, 2,096,724 people were employed in the industry. That number was around 325,000 more on the same day in 2019.

Empty restaurant tables due to shortage of skilled workers

Image: AdobeStock | Riku

“It is a huge challenge for businesses to find suitable employees,” emphasizes Guido Zöllick, President of the DEHOGA Federal Association. According to a recent DEHOGA survey, the shortage of skilled workers is a concern for nearly 80 percent (79.6%) of all establishments.

Another consequence of the crisis is a massive drop in the number of new apprenticeship contracts. “There was a particularly sharp drop in new contracts in the hospitality and transport trades,” explains Rotraud Kellers from the unit responsible for vocational training statistics at the Federal Statistical Office, which provides the latest figures. Accordingly, the largest declines in 2020 compared to the previous year were in jobs as a hotel specialist (-2,530, -31.0%), cook (-1,540, -19.8%) and tourism clerk (-990, -61.1%).

Long days are common in the gastronomy - the work-life-balance often seems to be neglected

Image: AdobeStock| xartproduction

Missing: work-life balance

In the UK, the hospitality industry is also struggling with a shortage of skilled workers. However, a survey conducted by the The Burnt Chef Project, a nonprofit organization that supports mentally distressed industry employees, offers hope. When seeking reasons for leaving the sector, the study found that 84% of the 2311 respondents in July 2021 were still working for the industry, and that one in three who were now working elsewhere wanted to return to the hospitality sector in the next 12 months. On the other hand, one in five plan to leave the industry in the next twelve months, and 37% are already in the process of leaving. The main reason cited for dissatisfaction is a lack of work-life balance.

The situation in the USA is even more drastic. In August alone, almost seven percent of hospitality employees quit, according to the German news magazine ntv. This is part of a general wave of layoffs of unprecedented proportions. “There’s greater movement all the time as workers dare to leave unpopular jobs. The reasons are pent-up dissatisfaction during the pandemic, desire for greater flexibility, and for some, relief from the new government’s social benefits,” the report says.

the shortage of skilled workers in the restaurant and catering industry is a big challenge mainly caused by poor payment


Want to be a host again? No way!

Conducted by the Joblist employment platform, the survey has revealed some alarming figures. It appears that one-third of hospitality workers in the USA are unhappy with their jobs – twice as many as before Corona. 58% of employees plan to quit this year, the study found. Those who turn their backs on the industry often don’t come back. The main reason, according to Joblist, is – not surprisingly – that the pay is too low, closely followed by the desire to pursue a different career path. Not enough benefits, hours and work time, difficult guests, the Corona risk and the physical exertion involved also keep people away from the industry.

How long will take until robots replace staff in the restaurant industry?

Image: AdobeStock | Anatoliy

The pandemic gives courage to make a change

This shows that most of the points of criticism raised existed before the crisis and are intrinsic to the industry. But the pandemic has given employees ample impetus to “vote with their feet.”

Let’s go – where renegades find new jobs

The study also lists where the disappointed specialists moved on to. While 16% became unemployed, the remainder often found an on-site office job (17%) or a home office job (17%). In addition, 13% went into industry, 11% into health care, and six percent took a job as a driver.

Worldwide, the skilled worker shortage is one of the most pressing problems for restaurateurs. This has now been confirmed by a recent study conducted by the checkout provider Lightspeed in six countries, including Germany.

Worldwide exodus from the hospitality industry

The Global State of the Hospitality Industry Report 2021 is an international survey that polled 850 restaurant executives from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Part of the study also focuses on employees and personnel. The results paint the picture of an industry that has been severely hit in some cases by the current staffing situation.

However, one thing is clear: the problem already existed before the pandemic. “The vast majority of restaurant owners in this country knew they had to do something about staff shortages long before Corona,” says Christoph Becker, Managing Director at DEHOGA Nordrhein, in response to the Lightspeed study. “The pandemic has caused the issue to become even more severe.”

not every employee copes well with demanding guests

image: Adobe Stock | chika_milan

In Germany, the guests’ demands are a bigger challenge than the shortage of skilled workers

When asked about the greatest current challenge, staff and skills shortages came out on top in almost all countries – except in Germany. At 22%, this problem was cited only as the third most frequent issue. Instead, more than one in three restaurateurs in the country (35%) see the increased expectations of guests as the biggest challenge right now – the highest perecentage in all six countries – followed by rising food and supply costs (23%). However, the rampant staff shortage is also a problem that threatens the very survival of the German hospitality industry. For example, 40% of hospitality providers had trouble retaining their employees. In addition, one third of German establishments have already had to make do with less staff than they actually need.

Service robots may subsitute missing service staff in restaurants in the future

Image: AdobeStock | zinkevych

This means it’s still not the time to give the all-clear, either in the German gastronomy sector or the entire hospitality sector worldwide. Nevertheless, the industry is once again showing proof of its creativity and courage. There are many ways out of the crisis. Giving up is not an option!

Counteracting the shortage of skilled workers:

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