There’s never been a better time to eat out in Scotland. At no time have we enjoyed such quality and variety of restaurants, but the boom is being threatened by a chronic shortage of chefs and waiting staff.
Top restauranteurs, including Nick Nairn, Martin Wishart and Andrew Fairlie have all complained about a lack of available staff but the skills shortage is across the board and this is compounded by high staff turnover which is prevalent in the hospitality sector. The shortage even threatens the future of our favourite eating out experience – the humble curry.
Neil Thomson, chief executive of the Federation of Chefs Scotland, says the country needs around 3000 more chefs for its tourism industry to be operating at full capacity and that’s before the effects of Brexit are felt.
A report published last year by the British Hospitality Association and KPMG warned that that the UK hospitality industry is ‘staring into a recruitment black hole’ without EU nationals to fill the vacancies. It estimated employers will need to find at least another 60,000 workers-a-year on top of the 200,000 already required.
With up to 25% of chefs and 75% of the waiting staff from continental Europe in some areas of the country, agency workers are becoming a crucial part of the restaurant food chain, filling the gaps when they arise.
Nairn, who took unusual step of posting a recruitment video on YouTube advertising for staff to work in his restaurant in Dunblane, has blamed rising costs, fears over Brexit and an unwillingness of Scots to work long and unsociable hours for the shortage.
In Fife, Lesley Laird, a local Labour MP, is working with local restauranteurs to tackle the curry crisis after a recruitment agency head warned a third of 4,000 curry houses across the UK were in danger of closing.
Laird said restaurateurs across the country were over-worked and more likely to suffer physical and mental health problems by trying to run their business with too few staff.
Eddie Finnigan, head of Two Rivers Recruitment, a Glasgow-based agency which provides staff for the hospitality industry, said: “There’s a skills shortage that threatens the closure of restaurants, bistros and gastropubs across Scotland and the UK.
“The hospitality contributes massively to our economy, both directly and indirectly and it’s vital in supporting our communities. We need to be more creative in how we encourage younger people into the profession, and smarter in terms of how we retain top talent in the kitchens and wider hospitality sector.”