On Thursday morning, a group of hospitality leaders met at the London School of Economics to discuss the opportunities and challenges that the sector is experiencing in the aftermath of Brexit. The workshop discussion “opportunities from Brexit” was sponsored by IndiCater.
35 industry professionals were surveyed during the event
- Only 20% were confident following Brexit and an even smaller number were feeling confident for next year.
- Less than 5% are confident in the trade bodies for the industry.
- There was absolute consensus over the need for industry bodies to have a more active role in bringing businesses together.
Bob Cotton, former Chief Executive of BHA and Non-Executive Director of IndiCater, was the key speaker. Bob shared his thoughts on why Brexit is opening a completely new scenario that will bring opportunities for the UK and in particular the hospitality sector. He argued that figures are show how the industry has grown over the recent years and Brexit has strengthened the sector. Yet, many are still deeply concerned about the long term performance of the sector.
Bob shared his optimism that whilst there are many questions and concerns going forward, business is there and the industry will grow. A point that was picked up and echoed by many in the room – hospitality has a great track record of overcoming all sorts of problems and working on solutions which make a positive impact.
How is the hospitality sector responding to Brexit?
When the full room was surveyed only 20% were confident following Brexit and an even smaller number were feeling confident for next year.
Although eating out is part of social life, many felt that SMEs and individual businesses will feel the most impact. This could create new opportunities for British and local production so that we will not be strongly dependent on imports.
Does leadership need to come from within the sector?
It was suggested the private sector has to make decisions because the government lacks the knowledge of the sector. When asked, none of the room said they were confident in the trade bodies for the industry. There are now many trade bodies in the sector and they do not work together to create a coherent aligned approach. So there is a need for greater cohesion within the sector, where big companies can take the lead on the issue and have an open and proactive discussion with the institutions on how the sector should respond to challenges such as employment issues and inflation.
The hospitality sector currently employs 442,000 EU migrants (restaurants and hotels). How is the industry going to address staff shortage?
Businesses should make an effort on supporting the current workforce so that they feel welcome in the country. In London 70% of hospitality staff are from overseas and the demands for staff are increasing. There are some who think we are in for a tough ride with Brexit because of an over reliance on imports and migrant labour. However others feel they can create systems and processes which can overcome these current situations.