'You start to feel a bit of a failure' - Cornwall hotel boss forced to turn customers away

  • Watch Kathy Wardle's report

Restaurants and hotels across the region are struggling to attract chefs and hospitality staff to keep up with tourist demand.

Staff shortages in the industry are getting increasingly worse and one hotel in St Austell says it is struggling to keep up.

Craig Holman, who manages the Llawnroc Hotel, says the industry is in peak "transfer season".

With summer quickly approaching, he fears job shortages mean he will be turning away customers when the hotel really needs them.

Staff at the Llawnroc have often had to turn away customers when they have empty tables because they don't have the staff to serve Credit: Craig Holman

"We want to say yes to everything here, but we've definitely had to cap it. You know roast dinners on Sundays where we could normally take 40 or 45, we've been down to 20.

"We've got the places and that's the most frustrating thing ever. We've got the places, we've got the seats, we've got the tables, we just haven't got the teams to deal with it."

There are approximately 4.2 vacancies per 100 employee jobs across the UK and tourist hotspots are struggling with even worse staff shortages, according to new figures.

In Dorset, there are 7.3 openings per 100 jobs, with the figure dropping to 5.9 in Devon.

To try to entice staff to join the hotel, Craig has got creative. Wages have gone up and perks have increased. By offering free holidays and family and friends discounts - he is hoping more people will want to join his team.

To operate at its best, he says the hotel should have 25 staff - but it currently has 22. Although the difference is not big, Craig says it is the strongest position they have been in for quite some time.

He said: "I'm happy today, but you could ring me tomorrow and I could be on my knees. Every day is different."

"It's a lot easier to turn people away when you're full. When you're turning people away because saying you just don't have enough staff then you start to feel a bit of a failure."

For the hotel the onboarding process is lengthy - employees need to carry out training and complete courses, all of which come at a cost.

Craig says that in January, the Llawnroc Hotel employed almost 20 people. Just four months later, they have lost 25% of those new employees.

"They did first aid courses, hygiene, even their personal license and they left. We spent hundreds and now we've lost it, but that's a gamble we have to take because we need to have those qualifications in place at all times."

At the peak of its labour shortage, the hotel was making do with just one chef instead of the usual three.

"He did work the seven days. He did come in every day. There are three shifts, breakfast lunch and dinner, and if there's only one chef, he needs to do all three shifts."

But it was not just tough for the employees to keep up with the demand - quality also suffered for the guests.

He said: "If you're working with one chef, it affects how many bookings you can take, which means you lose business. It also affects the wait times for the guests, so you get the complaints. Losing business and getting complaints - obviously, there's nothing worse."