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Desperately seeking good people – the skilled worker shortage and what you can do about it

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Even before Corona, it wasn’t easy to attract job seekers to the restaurant and hospitality industry. Now many of the hard-won employees have simply left. But hope is on the horizon.

The numbers published by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) speak for themselves. 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. According to a recent DEHOGA survey, the shortage of skilled workers is a concern for nearly 80 percent (79.6%) of all establishments.
Things aren’t looking better in other countries either. The Global State of the Hospitality Industry Report 2021 proves the shortage of skilled workers is one of the main problems facing the gastronomy industry worldwide. Conducted by the cash register supplier Lightspeed, this survey asked  850 restaurant managers from the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Netherlands about the current situation in their industry.

the shortage of skilled workers is becoming an increasing problem for the catering industry

Image: AdobeStock | Halfpoint

Demanding guests – a German issue

While staffing and skills shortages are at the top of the list in the other countries, German restaurant owners are mainly struggling with increasing guest demands (35%) and food and supply costs (23%).  However, at 22%, staff shortages trail right behind, and one in three businesses is understaffed. In Germany, as is the case everywhere, the lack of skilled workers must be urgently addressed – and this is not only the case since 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. “For some time now, the German hospitality industry has been trying hard to break down rigid structures and make itself more appealing to employees by offering an attractive overall package.”

Shortage of skilled workers and rising operating costs bring restaurateurs to their knees

IMAGE: ADOBESTOCK | DPVUE .IMAGES

One problem, many solutions

In its latest survey, DEHOGA also looked at what businesses are doing in this situation. The industry is responding to staff shortages by making adjustments to its menu (56.1%), increasing pay (54.1%), adding additional days off (51.9%), hiring more unskilled and semi-skilled workers (43.7%) and by making changes to work schedules (37.8%) and organizational structure (34.1%).

The 4-day week as an incentive for skilled workers

Image: Rational

A four-day week as a lure

At first glance, 25hours Hotels is taking a surprising approach by introducing a 4-day week on a trial basis at its Hamburg locations. “We expect this to provide a major boost for recruiting,” says Kathrin Gollubits, Director of Human Resources at 25hours Hotels, when explaining the move to the Germany hotel and gastronomy magazine Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomie-Zeitung. “I expect to see more vitality, more motivation and bigger teams,” she said, adding that she also expects this to attract more guests.

Restaurateurs struggle with increasing shortage of skilled workers

Image: AdobeStock | Anatoliy

Trusting and hoping in the state

When it comes to the question of how to get a better grip on the personnel problem, the Lightspeed Report shows a clear difference between Anglo-American countries and the European continent. German (67%), Dutch (60%) and French (53%) hosts hope primarily for more government funding to increase wages and stabilize operations. However, at the same time, restaurateurs in Germany are definitely not just sitting passively by and watching the situation get worse; they are also taking action themselves. Almost half (45%) said they had already increased wages and benefits to attract or retain employees – the second highest figure after the USA (59%). Restaurateurs from the USA (65%), Canada (50%) and the U.K. (48%), on the other hand, rely primarily on technology to automate processes and thereby free up staff, according to the Lightspeed report.

Digitization as a solution to the shortage of skilled workers

Image: gastronovi-GmbH

Digitalize out of the crisis

The team at Walserhuus Sertig demonstrates how digitization can be used to counter the skilled staff shortage. In a Swiss three-star hotel located in a remote side valley of Davos, the gastronomy software from the German supplier gastronovi is easing the staffing situation. Orders are sent directly from the table to the bar and kitchen with the software, allowing them to be processed without delay. Runners then bring the food to the tables. “Thanks to gastronovi, we save at least half a person’s manpower because the staff no longer have to cover so many distances,” says the owner Annalies Biäsch happily. The gastronovi ordering system, which allows guests to place their beverage and food requests using their own smartphones, is expected to take even more pressure off the staff. “At the moment, only about five percent of our guests use it, but in five years the numbers will look very different,” says Annalies Biäsch. “The ordering system takes a lot of pressure off the staff, and it helps you keep staff costs in check.”

Employees are relieved with the help of digital ordering systems

Image: gastronovi-GmbH

Together is better!

Family-owned establishments in Rhineland-Palatinate are now combating the personnel crisis in a way that is as proactive as it is likable. With the new network Working Family, which was founded by the federal state’s chambers of industry and commerce and sponsored by the Ministry of Economics, the participating businesses present themselves as attractive employers. The network’s support ranges from checklists for building an employer brand to the company’s own job board and joint marketing – most importantly, it also offers the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn from each other. After all, crises are often best solved together!

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