The UK’s exit from the European Union and proposed plans to restrict immigration continue are going to cause real headaches for the hospitality industry, limiting expansion plans for companies.
GlobalData research has points to some 7,500 new restaurants opening in the UK between 2016 and 2020.
However, chains are heavily reliant on migrant workers.
As part of its general election campaign, the Conservative party has re-affirmed its commitment to lower net migration to the “tens of thousands”.
Difficulties in finding workers at an affordable wage will put this kind of expansion at risk.
As a result of decreased migration, the industry will likely need to up its game in order to appeal more to British job seekers.
Hospitality jobs are often seen as low paid and low skilled, though the recent increases to minimum wage may help alleviate the pay issue.
But firms will also need to do more to provide skills training and career progression programs in order to show British workers that the hospitality industry offers a viable career.
Both the wage increases and increased spending on training will eat into the already squeezed margins of operators.
And expanding and improving training programs is not a simple task.
Existing programs to reach out to the long-term unemployed, while they have some success, are unlikely to yield sufficient workers to match demand.
The British Hospitality Association claimed that a scheme launched in association with the Department for Work and Pensions had created 67,000 new careers for long-term unemployed Brits in the hospitality industry over the past three years.
However the BHA also claimed that EU migrants alone account for 700,000 of the 4.5m workers in the hospitality industry.
This makes the outcome of the Brexit negotiations of vital importance to the foodservice industry.
Should the Brexit deal substantially curtail the freedom of movement of workers, a proposed “barista visa”, allowing young workers into the UK for a two year, non-extendable term, may alleviate the pressure.
However this is unlikely to fully plug the gap, especially if migrants see the UK as an unwelcoming host, and chose to move elsewhere.