Staff shortages hit 98% of firms, including Suffolk hotels and restaurants

The Brudenell at Aldeburgh, part of The Hotel Folk

The Brudenell at Aldeburgh, part of The Hotel Folk chain - Credit: Nick Smith Photography

A Suffolk hotel chain is experiencing difficulties recruiting kitchen staff after figures showed nearly all hospitality businesses in the east could not fill vacancies, affecting their ability to grow. 

David Scott, chief executive of The Hotel Folk, which runs hotels and restaurants in the county, said there was a lack of chefs in particular, with the gaps being filled by agency staff. 

Meanwhile, a Felixstowe seafront restaurant and takeaway has also blamed staff shortages for forcing it to close until "further notice".

Pictured: owner Alper Tekin and his partner, Sarka Hessova.

Fish Dish owner owner Alper Tekin and his partner, Sarka Hessova. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Fish Dish Fish and Chips, Undercliff Road, has previously been rated as one of the UK’s top fish and chip restaurants, and owner Alper Tekin said maintaining quality was key, which was another factor in their decision. 

“Our popularity has gone up every year, and this year, we’ve been busier than ever before. But we didn’t have enough staff to keep the quality,” explained Mr Tekin, who runs the business with his partner, Sarka Hessova. 

A study by Barclays Corporate Banking has revealed 98% of hospitality and leisure businesses in the east of England were struggling to recruit staff, especially cleaners, waiters and delivery personnel. 

Furthermore, 67% of hospitality and leisure firms in the east said they felt confident they would grow during 2022, compared to 77% nationally. 

Separately, data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that job availability is at a six-year high in 71% of local authorities across the UK. 

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Mid Suffolk was one of few districts to buck the trend, registering a 1% decrease in job adverts.

Mr Scott from The Hotel Folk believed the Covid-19 pandemic had caused people to reassess their work/life balance, resulting in many considering chef work to be an unattractive option due to the often long hours. 

He said some of the seaside hotels in his group were more affected because they had a smaller catchment area to inland properties, with the sea on one side. 

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CEO of the Hotel Folk, David Scott - Credit: Albanpix.com

The best way to address the issue, he said, was for the sector to invest more in developing talent and making the career more attractive to potential recruits by improving the work/life balance, possibly by introducing a four-day week. 

“If people want to spend more time with their family, then we have got to look at four-day working weeks rather than five-day working weeks so that people can have time at home. 

“Training and development is also a really important thing because we have got to show hospitality is a fantastic career for people to get involved in,” Mr Scott added. 

He did not think the increasing cost of living would result in customers deciding not to eat out or spend time at the chain’s businesses, though he noted they may represent a different demographic to clients at other hospitality businesses. 

He said customers at the Hotel Folk tended to be older, rather than the ‘2.4 family' demographic and retired, meaning they were more insulated against the rising prices.