Emerging from Lockdown it’s proving difficult to get the level of customer visits up to anything like what it was before the pandemic. Hopefully, as the consumer gains confidence in the strenuous efforts being made by pubs to protect them, this will resolve itself to some extent and only time can bring back the tourists.
But the real problem at the moment lies in getting sufficient staff. The employment hiatus brought about by Lockdown witnessed frustrated kitchen staff, waiters, waitresses and bar staff either returning to their own country or drifting off to other employments rather than languish in what was beginning to seem like an interminable wait for the return of their jobs.
In so doing, they discovered that not all employments required them to work anti-social hours night after night nor even at weekends.
And so they took up employment where the day started at 9 and finished at 5. These employments saw them enjoy weekends off with their friends. Before, they’d always had to opt-out of such social occasions through the necessity of having to work hospitality’s late shift.
And this is perhaps the nub of the present staffing problem for the pub and restaurant trade.
Work rotas are a two-way street. They’re not just for employers to fill weekday and weekend slots. Considerable account has to be taken going forward of the ‘demands’ from kitchen and waiting staff to ensure that they get some respite from constant weekend work or constant late-night rostering.
In our Main Story this month Cork’s Sean McCarthy, who operates four outlets in Cork, refers to the present threat of ‘staff burnout’ and of the need to ensure a work-life balance for staff.
Micheline Corr from hospitality recruitment agency The Firm tells of how former pub and restaurant staff are enjoying the change “… and the daytime hours” even though they might not be getting paid the same.
“New ways of working include roster changes to help parents with childcare,” she adds as an example of the way hospitality proprietors’ mindset needs to change.
Indeed this is echoed from the other side of the counter by Sean McCarthy: “The mindset of our industry needs to change” he says, “and change quickly if we want to retain our key staff members.”
It seems that if the pub trade wants to attract in more staff today, it must first look to the conditions of employment being offered all sections of the industry. Because employees too have a choice.