Wales’s hospitality sector is having to curtail services and opening hours due to a recruitment crisis.
An award winning pub in North Wales says it can only open three days a week while a well know Brecon pub is cutting the number of lunch services.
These are just two examples of a problem that is affecting hundreds of businesses across Wales at a time when they are desperate to bring in income after three lockdowns in 15 months.
Kinmel Arms at St George near Abergele is currently flooded with bookings and will boom further this week with the spring half term.
But staff numbers are currently less than half the pre-pandemic level and they’re struggling to get more people in – with many firms “desperate” to recruit.
It means currently only opening on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
It is a story repeated across Wales and comes at time when businesses need to maximise income after lockdowns.
Kinmel Arms owner Adam Williams also owns Llandudno Pier and says it is a similar story on the historic attraction – with elements of the site not able to fully open.
He said it was a combination of people leaving the sector in the pandemic, furlough and Brexit preventing recruitment from the EU.
He said: “We are fully booked for when we are open and we should be making hay now after lockdown but we just can’t get the people in. I think if you asked any hospitality business right now they would say something similar.
“We should be at 45 staff but have around 20 so we have had to cut to three days a week but we hope to increase it to four.
“It is the same across all our businesses, it is horrendous. What we don’t then want to do is work to death the good staff that are still here which is why we have cut the days we are open.
“The money we should be making in the coming months is supposed to see us through the next winter and make up for what we have lost but we can’t operate fully.
“It is a very serious problem and the result of the pandemic and Brexit and needs looking at as a priority.”
He said it was becoming cut throat on recruitment with big promises on wages.
But he warned while it was good for job seekers now there could be problems on the horizon.
He said: “People are paying well now but many may decide to lay off once the summer is over, I don’t want to promise a big wage now knowing I can’t afford to keep them on come the autumn.
“The concern is that people are laid off as everyone is going into the quieter winter period and furlough will have ended. I think there could be an unemployment problem at that point.
“This is not good for the people affected and also could have a knock on effect on next year as people will be poorer and have less money to spend on holidays and hospitality.
“We have a difficult period ahead of us.”
They are one of many businesses who can’t operate fully due to the current recruitment issues.
The owner of two Snowdonia hotels, who didn’t want the sites named, said they were up to 20% down on staffing numbers – which meant not operating at full capacity. They have had to curtail service times and warned of the potential of reduced opening, although said this would be a “last resort”.
He said: “It is really upsetting that we are having to curtail an already curtailed business. This comes at a time we need to build resilience for what is potentially to come and the quieter winter period.
“We have to deliver a high standard of service so to do that we are having to curtail service times. It would also not be fair on our existing staff if we didn’t do this, we have to safeguard them.
“Demand is getting stronger and there is a lot about UK staycations but we need to make sure we can deliver for everyone so they have a good experience of a holiday or a day trip in Wales.”
He said a mixture of factors had contributed to the situation – including people leaving the industry over the pandemic and some re-evaluating their priorities. He said some of the negative and incorrect messages about careers in hospitality were not helping – and that currently everyone was recruiting at the same time.
Brexit has also been a factor, he added, with the hotels previously recruiting a minority of staff from the EU. Many of those, even with settled status, had gone back to their home countries and were either struggling to return or had found other work.
He urged politicians to appreciate the urgency of the crisis and engage with the sector to find solutions.
The owners of The Felin Fach Griffin, near Brecon, have cut lunch service to two days a week.
Edmund Inkin, one of two brothers who run the EATDRINKSLEEP business that owns the pub, told Hospitality and Catering News: “This is an existential threat for many operators in the sector.
“The narrative we hear is that some are simply unable to re-open.
“Our own take is that people will continue to be driven away from working in the industry if the work/life balance isn’t right. So, this pre-emptive step is one we want to take, even if the economics are unhelpful.”
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