News: Hospitality sector calls for further government support

New research published by hospitality and pub trade bodies in the UK shows the scale of the challenges facing these hard-hit businesses as they look to rebuild from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping are all warning that the long-awaited easing of restrictions this week does not mark an easing of challenges for sector businesses.

Chief among these are major concerns around staffing, the supply chain and tapering of government support.

Furthermore, the current ‘pingdemic’, as a result of the NHS Covid app, means up to as many as a fifth of staff in the sector are isolating at any one time.

This is forcing operators to reduce operating hours or to close venues completely, threatening to derail recovery.

The survey of over 350 businesses operating tens of thousands of venues found that 100 per cent of businesses surveyed currently have vacancies; mainly front-of-house (84 per cent), non-head chefs (67 per cent) and kitchen porters (36 per cent).

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A third are experiencing managerial role vacancies. Vacancy levels are running at 10% across the sector – implying a shortage of over 200,000 workers.

Almost all (94 per cent) of hospitality businesses are also experiencing difficulties with their supply chain – 66 per cent have reduced product lines; 63 per cent are seeing delays in deliveries; 60 per cent are experiencing products not turning up; and 56 per cent are seeing major price inflation

A return to a VAT rate of 20 per cent next year will have negative impacts on the vast majority of businesses, the trade bodies warned.

Other support measures needed that ranked highly were a reduction in the tax on beer and alcoholic drinks, as well as help to address labour shortages experienced by the sector.

In a joint statement, the three trade bodies said: “The easing of all legal restrictions should mark a progression into the recovery phase for our sector, which has been hardest hit during the pandemic and only now permitted to trade unrestricted and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts.

“But businesses are faced with a range of pressing challenges meaning the road to recovery will be bumpy for many months to come.

“The sector has already lost more than 12,000 venues during the course of the pandemic and more than half a million jobs – without further adequate support there will be more businesses and jobs lost.”

The statement added: “For hospitality to begin a sustainable recovery, government must continue working closely with us in order to put in place the right trading environment, including measures such as further business rates relief into next year and the extension of the lower rate of VAT.

“This will offer firms the chance to bounce back strongly and help to rebuild fragile consumer confidence.

“With the right support, hospitality can be at the forefront of the nation’s economic recovery, creating jobs and reviving our high streets and city centres.”

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