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An industry of choice, not an industry of chance – Countering the Brexit effect


Hospitality, millenials, brexfast, roundtable, brexit, events, europe, britain, education

Off to Work Breakfast Roundtable January 2018

Hosted by Life’s Kitchen in the historic Painter’s Hall, Off to Work facilitated and led a thought-provoking and stimulating roundtable on Brexit, and the impact this has, or potentially will have, on the events and hospitality industry in the near future.

The discussion panel comprised industry leading professionals from CH & Co Group, ISS, Edition Hotels, Graysons, Off to Work and Life’s Kitchen. Students in Events Management were also invited to listen and be involved in discussions providing an outlook from future workers in the industry.

This “Brexfast” was also the 2nd of a series of events with the first event including Managing and Operations Directors from Lusso, Artizian, ISS, Church House, Bartlett Mitchell and Purple Cubed again discussion the concerns, expected impact and pro-active responses to Brexit.




Has Brexit had a noticeable effect on sales & client activity?

All parties present at both events felt that its initial announcement in 2016 had caused some inertia and a drop off in sales however this had been followed by a period of sustained growth. Those present had seen their clients, in recent months, maintaining and increasing their investment in infrastructure and hospitality activities.

Has Brexit uncertainty effected talent sourcing?

The groups mutually agreed that Brexit uncertainty was having a perceived effect on recruiting and retaining talent.

The main concerns were:

  • Reduction in experienced and entry level European workers moving to London
  • Increase in European workers returning to the continent due to uncertainty of their future here
  • Perceived change in attitude in UK and Europeans feeling they are not as welcome here as they were.
  • Wage inflation with experienced chefs, supervisors and managers now commanding a higher wage with demand outstripping supply

Is there a greater clarity now than in early 2017 for European Workers in the UK?

Overall the feeling was that there is still a high level of uncertainty even after recent political agreements reached.

There was a concern as well that social media and the press in general are subjective in their approach to the matter and team members may not get an objective, balanced and informed information on changes.

Have European team members been kept informed by their employers?

It was unanimously agreed that while there had been some initial communication to team members post the Brexit result, there had not been a consistent reassurance to workers of what their rights are and what the future holds. This was mainly due to companies not feeling they have clear answers to give to their team members.

Apple Retail were however cited by Jose Ruiz, from Edition Hotel and previously Apple, as an example of what can be done. They have continued to give quarterly updates to their team on what they know and have also offered to cover the cost of any of their team members applying for British citizenship.

It was agreed by all present that while Employers may still not know everything it is paramount that they are giving employees objective and official information plus reassuring them that they are committed to support and help them wherever possible.

*Best clarity at present can be found here:

Has there been a change in those applying for roles and or a drop in the number of applications?

Off to Work was able to show a flow chart of applications to its casual team and overall applications since 201, and the nationality of these have remained steady. This is reflective of the lower but still increasing EU workers with numbers increasing in the UK by 112,000 since the Brexit vote.




European staff accounted for approximately 30% of the workforce and again the profile has remained consistent for the last three years.

This was consistent with the findings in the KPMG report for BHA in November 2016 on the nationality make-up of the hospitality work force in the UK with a figure of between 25-30% quoted. Differences can be found dependent on the geographical region of the UK and equally the sector or the hospitality industry.

Jose Ruiz, HR Director at Edition Hotel London commented that 70% of his workforce is European and this level was also confirmed at The Curtain Hotel.

There is a concern that while the impact on applications may not have yet been seen, this is likely to become more pronounced as we get closer to Brexit in 2019, and it was felt by both groups that a drop in European applicants will drive up the pressure for the Hospitality Industry to both attract and retain British talent.

This is multiplied by the current historically low levels of national unemployment, now standing at 4.3% and employment rate steady at 75.3%, which creates a further squeeze on talent entering the hospitality industry.

“We need to become the Industry of Choice rather than the Industry of Chance”

As aptly put by Sharon Linney , Operations Director Lusso, it was felt by both groups that to manage the reduction in available talent the hospitality industry needs to be an industry that people aspire to work in rather than an industry they fall into.

Philip Atkins, Off to Work Managing Director shared that a recent study by, of thousands of employees in different businesses into their happiness, had found that Hospitality is the third happiest sector with 73% of employees happy.   This reflects the career opportunities within the sector and we need to make sure these are made clearer to future potential employees.  

So what are millennials looking for in an employer?

The feedback from the students and millennials who attend the meeting, and supported by wider studies, is that as a generation, millennials want to understand their place in a company, and how their role contributes to its success. Building an emotional connection and deepening value to their everyday roles is incredibly important to them, and often this isn't translated clearly to those looking from the outside in.

John Beattie from ISS UK Comms himself suggested that 'people nowadays seek more work-life balance and we have to meet those expectations'. This is supported in Deloitte’s Millenial report which concludes they want to have “freelance flexibility with full-time stability” in their roles.

In order to attract this generation and retain staff, employers will need to focus on bridging that generational gap and lack of mutual understanding.

The group noted that top firms in other industries such as accountancy put a focus on longevity and progression and nurturing talent through rewarding programs / apprenticeships for younger generations. They then went onto discuss the ways in which the hospitality industry could channel this ideology, and altering attitudes towards staff treatment was integral to this. Examples included the provision of better Employer Value Propositions such as buying extra holiday, having birthdays off, a fairer work / life balance, discounts, social events, and clear career progression.

The table agreed that whilst efforts had been made to the modernize the customer experience over the last two decades (technological conveniences, attentiveness to customer needs etc.), the same needed to be reflective in the treatment and care of staff, in order to build positive and attractive working environments.

Overall, establishing an emotional connection between millennial staff and employers is the key to attracting the best talent, and keeping it.

“Are we doing enough to attract people to our industry? If the flow of people coming in will decrease, we will seriously need to think about how we make our jobs more attractive to those who are already in the UK”, asked Life’s Kitchen Dave Pay, to which the group mutually agreed needed serious deliberation. 

How then does the industry orchestrate change?

The group discussed the big opportunity to communicate positively with the education sector about how the hospitality sector has changed and developed with better working practises and career opportunities within it. The approaches towards hospitality schemes and apprenticeships for young people for example, needs to be modernised and reflect this so hospitality is considered from early stages of career decisions.

The debate of retaining EU nationals working within the UK industry however remained complex, as the full of effects of Brexit have not yet come to pass. That being said, everyone was also in agreement that the industry would need to be clear and straightforward in its decisions as well as supportive of EU staff members.

Brexit, they concluded, was a chance for the hospitality industry to set itself aside as a sector that models its ethics on fairness to staff, from focusing on sourcing talent in both the UK and the EU, to making it a working environment that young people want to flourish and build their careers in.

Whether it reveals itself to be a hard Brexit or soft one, employers will need to use it as a catalyst for change to move the industry forward, and to keep up with the employment expectations of an ambitious younger generation who want both engagement and flexibility in their working lives.  

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