Christmas Is Coming – Are You Ready?

Christmas hiring

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, the customers are booking tables – but how are you going to cope with that? 

It’s not easy at the best of times finding enough temporary workers to help you through the busy festive period, but this year, with the industry already facing a staffing crisis, it’s going to be incredibly difficult.

Here we consider just how busy venues are likely to get, explore the reasons behind the staffing shortage and look at how Harri can help ease the strain…

A Tale of Two Christmases

Last Christmas many Europeans were still here, filling hospitality roles, but thousands have now returned to their home countries. In fact, more than 90,000 European workers left the hospitality industry due to a combination of changes in visa requirements since Brexit and the onset of the pandemic. Of course, last year Christmas trade was dramatically down due to the pandemic, but this year there are currently no plans to restrict Christmas trading, and research shows that there is a strong desire, particularly amongst younger people, to eat and drink out this festive period.

This all comes at a time when the number of job vacancies in the UK hospitality industry has hit record levels. Hospitality has a 10% vacancy rate, meaning it is short of around 200,000 workers since the sector fully reopened.

Around a quarter of UKHospitality members have had to cut opening hours, close venues and refuse bookings because of staffing and supply issues, and the organisation’s chief executive Kate Nicholls said the situation is likely to continue through the festive period. Speaking to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, she said: 

“It is the cruellest of ironies that at the point at which you are reopening, [with] a desperate need to rebuild cash reserves, shattered balance sheets and trade your way out of this… your ability to do that is constrained by the fact you don’t have access to sufficient labour.”

Appetites are High for Festive Eating Out

While venues are struggling to fill staff vacancies, demand from consumers certainly appears to be on the up: CGA’s latest Pulse survey looked at consumers’ attitudes to dining and drinking out this Christmas, and found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers plan to visit the on-premise over the festive period. People aged 18-34 are particularly keen to go out, with two thirds (69%) of those who intend to go out saying they plan to do so at least as often as they did over Christmas 2019.

However, older demographics are less enthusiastic, with well over a third (38%) of those aged 55 or over saying they won’t be using the on-premise at all. Among those who do plan to go out in this age group, nearly half (45%) will do so less often than they did in 2019. A third (33%) of consumers who do plan to head out intend to celebrate with friends, while nearly as many (31%) are planning celebrations with family. Around a quarter (26%) plan to have workplace Christmas parties in hospitality venues.

CGA’s research and insight director Charlie Mitchell said: “These figures give us grounds for cautious optimism for strong December trading. After a Christmas washout in 2020, consumers are eager to get back to the kind of festive experiences that only the on-premise can provide.

“However, venues will have to juggle some people’s desire to celebrate with more cautious consumers’ anxieties about safety – all while addressing major challenges around staffing and supply.”

Filling Christmas Vacancies is a “Dog Eat Dog” World

The challenge of finding staff to fill roles ahead of the party season is driving some operators to use “underhand” tactics to poach employees from rival businesses, according to reports. Speaking to The Caterer, Andy Dempster, operations director at Romet Group, which runs six restaurants in London, described it as a “dog eat dog” scenario ahead of the busy festive period.

He said: “A large restaurant group nearby was proactively coming in with business cards and speaking to our staff while they were working. I felt that was not on.

“As a company, we lost over 90% of our workforce come April for various reasons. Everyone in the industry reopening at the same time exacerbated the demand for talent, so people are having to be proactive, but there are lines being crossed by some companies.”

Dempster anticipated attempts to poach staff will get worse in the run-up to the busy Christmas period.

He told The Caterer: “There are big restaurants that are massively under-resourced and they’re going to get desperate. The only way they can compete is offering more money per hour but that also has a shelf life. Are the team members that leave going to be getting the same amount of hours come January or February?”

Andrei Lussmann, founder of Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen, who has had some of his staff poached by rival restaurants, said he believed many hospitality businesses offering inflated wages over the festive period will struggle to survive in the New Year.

“I’ve told all my teams that this is just short-term chaos, and if they’re going into a business that’s going to pay that much to question if they will still be here next year,” he said.

“We’re coming into Christmas when things [for hospitality] will bounce back but I do think after Christmas there will be a little bit of carnage.”

Let Harri be Your Christmas Elf

No doubt you need all the help you can get right now with finding talented staff in readiness for the festive season, so let Harri be your helpful Christmas elf. Harri’s Talent Acquisition Suite offers a host of functions to help with hiring, including screening questions to enable managers to quickly and easily identify the candidates most suited for the role, and video interviewing. 

And let us introduce Carri, your friendly, human-like AI hiring assistant – you can trust her to manage the entire application and candidate communications lifecycle in real-time via SMS, web-based chat on your careers page, Facebook Messenger, and more. In a world where it’s a candidate’s market, employers need to make their application process as simple and attractive as possible – and Carri can help you do just that.

Where Harri Comes In

Making sure you’ve got the right people in the right place at the right time is always a must in hospitality, but that will be even more vital this festive season when demand is high and staff resources are stretched.

Harri’s smart scheduling module allows your employees to swap, drop and request more shifts as they need to, making life easier and more efficient for the whole team. What’s more, you can even enable automatic, direct or pick-up shift functionality for employees to engage with, as well as providing team members with access to the TeamLive app to trade and swap shifts on the go. 

In other words, with Harri’s scheduling module you can give your precious staff the gift of flexibility this Christmas.

 

Want to find out more about what Harri can do for you? You can request a demo here.

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