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There’s a staffing problem in hospitality – and the older generation could be part of the solution.

Pub and restaurant bosses believe the recruitment challenges affecting the hospitality sector could be solved if older people who took early retirement returned to work and considered a late-life career as a chef, bartender or waiter.

According to a new study commissioned by hospitality recruitment platform Barcats, 72% of pub and restaurant bosses agreed that more over-50s on the payroll could fix the workforce crisis that has put thousands of businesses on the brink of bankruptcy.

The survey of a thousand hospitality managers responsible for hiring staff found that almost two thirds (64%) would consider hiring someone over 50, with half (49%) praising the reliability of older workers over young ones.

It highlights the issues that continue to plague the UK hospitality sector, as it tries to recover from the damaging impact of the pandemic. Over the past six years, the industry has increased its annual economic contribution by £20 billion to £93 billion*, but despite being the third-biggest employer in the UK, accounting for 3.5m jobs through direct employment in 2022, and a further 3m indirectly, it continues to suffer from restricted growth and a tight labour market.

Almost a third (32%) of bosses surveyed said their business was still experiencing problems trying to hire skilled labour, including chefs, kitchen workers, bar staff and waiters. A significant proportion said recruitment issues had nearly put them out of business (44%) and, in some cases (13%), had forced them to close for part of the week.

According to ONS data, the increase in economic inactivity since the start of the pandemic has been driven by the over-50 age group. Nearly half of those aged 60-65 who chose to give up work around the time of the pandemic had not returned by last summer. More surprisingly, perhaps, a third (33%) aged 55-59 and one in 10 (9%) aged 50-54 have chosen to retire early. But with so many job vacancies across the hospitality sector, why aren’t recruiters able to attract older applicants?

According to the survey, managers think older people are put off from applying for vacant roles – either because they believe they are too old for that type of work (59%), or because employers don’t want them (36%).

Jeff Williams, Barcats CEO, commented: “This research shows that the hospitality sector is actively encouraging older and retired people to come forward and apply for jobs in their local pubs, restaurants and cafés. Seven in 10 managers think having staff aged over 50 would give their business a boost and we’ve seen this work really well in other territories that Barcats already operates in.

“Barcats is a unique platform that connects venue operators and staff, and training programmes, free of charge to those wanting to upskill. Our eldest UK member who has signed up for work is a 73-year-old male from East London. And while older workers may not have current drinks trends nailed, they could still be the most fabulous bartender or sommelier by undertaking our training programmes.”

* Ignite Economics report of UK Hospitality.

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Call Ethan Leaning on 01291 636333