St Leonards restaurant struggling to recruit workers ‘in all areas’

A St Leonards restaurant owner says his business has struggled to fill job vacancies ‘in all areas’ since reopening after the latest coronavirus lockdown.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:58 pm

Aldo Esposito runs La Bella Vista, in Grand Parade, St Leonards alongside his wife Deborah, his brother Franco and Monica Ruggiano.

The restaurant, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, was forced to close during each of the national lockdowns.

However, since reopening to indoor diners on May 17, the business has struggled to recruit people ‘in all areas’.

La Bella Vista in St Leonards. Photo taken back when the restaurant was getting ready to reopen indoor dining on May 17 2021 after the easing of lockdown restrictions. L-R: Deborah Esposito, Franco Esposito, Monica Ruggiano and Aldo Esposito. SUS-210607-081814001

Mr Esposito said: “Staffing is certainly an issue at the moment. Since reopening, we have struggled with recruitment in all areas. For example in February, we had over 50 applicants to a waiting role whereas recently we have had less than 10 apply to the same role.

“Alongside this, the need for some staff to self isolate due to close contact in recent weeks has made operating during the last couple of months increasingly challenging.

“However, its still all a continuing learning curve and we now feel far better prepared for a host of situations compared to just a few months ago, as we look to make use of the new points based immigration system for EU workers.”

Last month, the Hastings hospitality sector said many job vacancies have gone unfilled due to the uncertainty surrounding the industry following the multiple lockdowns and various other restrictions in place.

A pub in the town claimed it has lost two of its three chefs since the start of the pandemic, a hotel said it was offering ‘finders’ fees’ of £1,000 for the successful recruitment of kitchen staff and cafés and restaurants in the area have been reducing their opening hours due to the inability to recruit sufficient staff.

UK Hospitality said there was a shortfall of 188,000 workers nationwide. They said one reason for this was the uncertainty around taking a job in the hospitality sector, due to many staff being laid off during the pandemic.

Kevin Boorman, manager of the 1066 Country Marketing tourism partnership, said he had ‘never known such problems in recruiting hospitality staff locally, certainly not in the last 20 years’.

He added: “This is clearly a national issue, and has been raised at VisitEngland and British Destinations (our trade body) meetings I have attended very recently.”

UK Hospitality has also said Brexit has contributed to staff shortages, as EU workers have returned to their home countries.

John Bownas, manager of Love Hastings, also said the problem is not limited to just the hospitality sector.

He added: “I’ve been speaking to other businesses such as estate agents who are in a similar position and simply cannot get applicants for even entry-level positions. We’ve posted up several job adds for local bars and cafés recently on the Love Hastings social media pages to try and get them the staff they need to operate – but vacancies are still commonplace.

“It seems like a big contributing factor is that over a million workers from other parts of the EU left the UK at the start of the pandemic but few of them have returned.”