'Stuck in the kitchen seven days a week': Restaurants face recruitment crisis in south Scotland

  • Video report by ITV Border's Barnaby Papadopulos

Restaurant staff in the south of Scotland say they are struggling to recruit chefs, as hospitality and catering businesses across the country search for staff willing to work in the industry.

Brexit, the impact of the pandemic and difficult working conditions have all been given as possible reasons for a recruitment crisis, which has led to over 130,000 vacancies in the hospitality and catering sectors across the UK.

At the Black Bull Inn in Moffat, owner Janie has been without a Chef since the end of June.

As a result, guests at the hotel can no longer get breakfast or lunch, and the restaurant has had to limit its opening hours.

Speaking to ITV Border, she said she'd been trying to recruit a new chef since the end of June.

"The fact that I haven't had a chef comprehensively since then has clearly impacted my business somewhat because I'm a hotel and my guests expect to have dinner and breakfast."

Janie says she's been trying to recruit a Chef since June.

She suggested that the impact of lockdowns were to blame for recruiting difficulties.

"I think [chefs] have seen the potential of having a better life. Lockdown meant that kitchens and restaurants were closed, and I think they've begun to re-evaluate what they want from life."

Long hours, weekend working and poor pay were all offered as potential reasons behind the high number of vacancies.

"I'm stuck in the kitchen seven days a week"

Tom Cheeseman, the general manager of the Kings Arms hotel in Lockerbie, said he had had to go back into the kitchen himself, seven days a week, in order to keep the doors open.

The situation had been problematic, he said.

"Everything else slips because of that. Before Covid, we did have a couple of foreign workers, a couple of Spanish skills come and help us out short term.

"But certainly Brexit has made a difference to the workers in the UK and especially in hospitality."

All the people ITV Border spoke to suggested that lower recruitment of staff from EU countries since Brexit had worsened the situation.

Michael Tough, who runs recruitment firm Chefs in Scotland, said: "Brexit, and more realistically, the failings of the UK government to put systems in place whereby EU workers can still come and work in the UK, is obviously meaning that there are less chefs coming over.

"We used to get a lot of chefs coming over from Poland, France, Spain to work in Scotland for periods of time," he added, also, like Janie, citing different lifestyle choices as a key factor.

Government 'in regular dialogue' with hospitality sector

Given the number of vacancies, some have suggested chefs be added to the shortage occupations list - which makes it easier for eligible foreign workers to gain work visas.

In a statement, the Home Office said it "is in regular dialogue with the hospitality sector and is aware of the recruitment and retention challenges facing businesses".

Regarding the shortage occupations list, the government added: "We work closely with the Migration Advisory Committee to ensure our Points-Based System delivers for the UK and works in the best interests of the economy, including reviewing the Shortage Occupation List to ensure it reflects the current labour market. 

"Many roles within the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors - including chefs and hotel, catering and bar managers - are eligible under the Points-Based System.

"Firms can hire workers through the immigration system if they meet the required English language and salary thresholds and are sponsored by a registered Home Office sponsor."

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