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Hospitality vacancies double of wider economy

The ONS reported that the hospitality’s sector vacancy rate was twice that of the economy as a whole,

despite the sector creating 122,000 new jobs between March and June.

The number of job vacancies in the UK has was above 1 million for the first time on record, 249,000 above the pre-pandemic January to March 2020 level.

The ONS said the number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 241,000 between July and August to move 1,000 above levels before the coronavirus outbreak.

Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician at the ONS, said: "Early estimates from payroll data suggest that in August the total number of employees is around the same level as before the pandemic, though our surveys show well over a million are still on furlough.

"However, this recovery isn't even: in hard-hit areas such as London, and sectors such as hospitality and arts and leisure, the numbers of workers remain well down on pre-pandemic levels."

The news came as chronic labour shortages, insufficient manufactured stocks and post-Brexit challenges on imports were combining to create disruption and inflation across the foodservice sector, according to the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index.

The monthly report showed problems intensified throughout food and drink supply markets in July, with shortages of HGV drivers a particular concern. The Index indicated further year-on-year inflation in prices in most food and drink categories during the month, and forecast more increases over the rest of 2021. Hospitality’s return towards pre-pandemic trading levels, wage inflation throughout the supply chain and further Brexit impacts were all likely to feed through the chain into higher prices.

Many food businesses were also experiencing difficulty in securing chef labour, leading to increasing numbers reducing menu ranging, and/or seeking prepared products from suppliers. Some are also setting up their own central production kitchens to make the most of available labour and take pressure away from individual sites.

Shaun Allen, CEO of Prestige Purchasing, said: “Our 12-month rolling forecast predicts an increasingly strong rise in food and drink prices, and many operators are now intensifying their focus on the management of their supply markets and the simplification of their food production. With the removal of the VAT reduction and a wide range of rising costs the balancing act of menu pricing and cost management to deliver optimum cash will be tougher than ever.”

James Ashurst, client director at CGA, said: “The foodservice sector is bouncing back well from the turmoil of COVID, and consumer demand for hospitality experiences remains strong. But labour shortages and price inflation are threatening the recovery, and it is particularly frustrating that most of the challenges are out of businesses’ own hands. With few solutions in sight in the short-term, they are going to have to be agile and resourceful in their purchasing and supply arrangements in the run-up to the crucial Christmas period.”

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