Hospitality industry facing unprecedented challenges, says Worthing and Littlehampton restaurateur
The hospitality industry is experiencing its toughest times in a century, according to Andy Sparsis, who runs restaurants in Worthing and Littlehampton.
He told the Herald and Gazette if drastic changes were not made now, ‘it is quite likely that tourism in the UK will be seriously affected by the lack of open hospitality businesses’.
Part of the problem was Brexit and the loss of the Eastern European workforce, he added, and the industry itself not being particularly attractive.
“To keep the hospitality sector successfully, fully employed, the biggest changes must come from the sector itself,” said Mr Sparsis, who owns The Fish Factory in Worthing and Littlehampton, and The Fat Greek Taverna in Worthing.
“The sector must understand that employing people in the hospitality business is no longer a popular choice. Especially when relying on the domestic employee.
“Employers must work hard to allow more flexible working hours, weekends off and improve pay structures.
“Different models of employment, such as four days off, three days on and up to eight weeks paid holiday a year may well be ways of enticing people back to the industry.”
Fifty to 60 per cent of hospitality workers in the UK are Eastern European, Mr Sparsis said, but with the new Brexit point system, hardly any of those currently employed would be eligible on today’s immigration policy to be able to enter the country.
“Obviously, this diminishes the recruitment pool exponentially from going forward,” he continued.
“It is well established that the Eastern European workforce has a hardworking approach to hospitality, which over the years has allowed employers to benefit financially.
“The British have a different work-life balance when approaching their jobs, and so often would not enter into a hospitality role.
“The Eastern European immigration allowed for these positions to be filled. So tomorrow’s picture is bleak for the hospitality employment sector.”
Hospitality can be a highly rewarding, lifetime career, Mr Sparsis said. And it can be transferable to anywhere in the world, with many diverse areas of working, from cruise ships to hospitals to seafront nightclubs.
But the work-life balance has always been a compromise, Mr Sparsis added, and since the pandemic, many hospitality employees that were furloughed enjoyed having weekends off and evenings with their families.
And understandably, he said, this had made them look closer at their career choices.