The changing shape of the hospitality workforce has been revealed in new research from workforce management app, Deputy.

The Rebuilding Hospitality: The Changing Shape of the UK Workforce report reveals that nearly a quarter of a million workers aged 25-40 (Millennials) are estimated to have left the industry between December 2019 and October 2021. This has accelerated a trend of replacing these workers with under 25s (Gen Z) and the need for training and development to address lost knowledge and management capability.

Conducted by independent economist Shashi Karunanethy, the research analysed 1,528,542 shifts from Deputy’s rostering systems worked by more than 14,000 UK hospitality workers in the past 22 months. Examining bars & pubs, accommodation, cafes & coffee shops, fast food & takeaways, and restaurants – it reveals a significant shift in industry staffing.

The proportion of Millennials working in the sector has declined from 49% to 42%, equating to a loss of around 210,000 workers. At the same time, the proportion of workers from Gen Z has risen by 5%, which equates to around 150,000 workers.

On the transition, Shashi Karunanethy, said: “Half a year since Covid restrictions began to ease, hospitality employment levels are still well below pre-pandemic levels.  They’ve lost a huge proportion of their workforce and are more reliant on young staff than ever before.

“Looking at the Millennial age group, it’s understandable that some of those with young families and with more bills to pay may have moved into roles that flourished during lockdowns, such as supermarket work and delivery driving. We also lost a huge number of Millennial workers who originated from outside of the UK, due to the timing of Covid and Brexit. Many of them worked in the restaurant, hotel and pub sectors in the UK and they simply haven’t returned since the Covid restrictions eased.”

According to the report, the exodus of those aged 25 to 40 and growth in those 24 and under could be seen across:

  • Fast food & takeaways (Gen Z grew from 26% to 38% of the workforce, Millennials declined from 51% to 43%)
  • Bars & pubs (Gen Z grew from 31% to 35%, Millennials declined from 51% to 48%)
  • Accommodation (Gen Z grew from 26% to 29%, Millennials declined from 45% to 41%
  • Cafes & coffee shops (Gen Z grew from 31% to 33%, Millennials declined from 55% to 50%)

David Kelly, General Manager for EMEA at Deputy added: “In the long term, the surge in young people joining the industry is really good news for the future. However, right now, it’s a particularly testing time for business owners and managers who are already grappling with supply-chain disruption, utility cost inflation, VAT rises to come in April, caps on business relief rates, and staff shortages. Many business owners are having to vary their opening hours in line with staff availability. Managing that process is a huge challenge, even with a staff of industry veterans, let alone new starters. Upskilling the next generation of staff will be vital to long-term success.”

The report highlights a number of considerations and recommendations for hospitality businesses to help them navigate the new hospitality landscape:

  • Focus on aptitude and attitude rather than experience when recruiting

Bringing young people into the workforce is crucial for a successful recovery to take place. There are over half a million unemployed or under-employed young people (16-24) in the UK.

  • Offer more flexibility / family-friendly working patterns

There is a major opportunity to employ and promote experienced workers through the provision of more flexible and predictable working hours. Forward thinking employers have an opportunity to offer a range of working patterns such as ‘some time’, ‘part time’, ‘full time’ and ‘any time’ to appeal to a variety of potential workers.

  • Use technology to automate some tasks

Allow staff to focus on delivering great customer experience by using technologies like online booking, automated check-in and check-out, ordering and payment apps and self-serve kiosks. Streamline customer booking, ordering and payment and automate mundane staff management such as building a rota, tracking time and error free payroll.  By implementing these technologies forward thinking hospitality businesses can focus scarce staff resources on delivering the best customer experience.

  • A reason to be optimistic

Accommodation and food is forecast to be the largest contributor of future jobs in the UK over the next 5 years. The industry is projected to support over 180,000 new jobs over the next 5 years or a quarter of total new jobs by 2024.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.