What does the decline in EU staff mean for the hospitality industry?


What does the decline in EU staff mean for the hospitality industry?


Since writing this article the Government have announced plans to scrap the £65 fee for EU citizens to stay in the UK. This is great news for EU team members but Carluccio’s should still be recognised for making the offer to their teams in the first place.

Italian dining chain Carluccio’s was the recipient of some admiration this month after it announced it would pay for its 1,550 non-British EU employees to apply for settled status in the UK after Brexit.

The company is believed to be the first restaurant chain to pay for the £65 application fee – it’s expected to cost more than £100,000, if all the staff take them up on their offer.

Explaining the decision, Mark Jones, CEO of Carluccio’s, pointed out that the restaurant group wouldn’t be what it is today without the late Antonio Carluccio making the journey from Europe to London.

“Today we employ over 2,300 people from over 80 countries. A large number, just like Antonio, decided to travel from mainland Europe and make their home in the UK,” he added.

Jones claims the move to help staff, who may be feeling unsettled about their future, is “what Antonio would have wanted”.

Under the EU Settlement Scheme, citizens from the bloc must apply to continue living in the UK after June 30 2021. Settled status will be given to those who have lived in the UK for more than five years.

HGEM’s Head of Client Success, Jason Horn comments: "Investing in your team is the best way to show you care for them and appreciate their commitment to you. The investment the team at Carluccio’s are choosing to make is significant. They are openly recognising the impact their team have on the enjoyment of their guests and therefore their business."

"There are enough pressures in people’s everyday lives without them having to worry if they will be ‘allowed’ to remain living and working as part of the team. A show of fantastic investment, foresight and remodelling by the team at Carluccio’s led by Mark Jones."

Will it prove to be money well spent?

Beyond it being an admirable thing to do, the decision from Carluccio’s to ‘pick up the cheque’ for its EU employees could prove to be a sound business decision.

It’s no secret that the company has had a tough 12 months financially. In May last year, Carluccio’s entered into a Company Voluntary Agreement that meant it would close 30 of its 103 restaurants.

So, this potentially expensive decision wouldn’t have been taken lightly. However, it’s likely to be beneficial in the long run. Employees may be concerned about their job stability going forward, which could have a detrimental effect upon their overall productivity and morale. The offer from Carluccio’s presents some reassurance.

It also increases the company’s chances of retaining their EU staff in the long term – not only by helping to secure their settled status, but by showing them some compassion, which could be rewarded with loyalty. The cost of recruitment is expensive when we’re talking about hundreds of staff to have to replace.

Maintaining high service standards post-Brexit

It’s not just a matter of retaining staff to save money on recruitment and maintain morale. Non-British workers make up a huge part of the hospitality industry and any legislation that potentially makes it harder for businesses to attract foreign talent threatens to prompt a decline in service standards.

Restaurant leaders recently addressed a letter to the industry on this very matter, in which they called on their colleagues to write to their local MP to highlight the damage created by a hard or soft Brexit.

“The reason we have developed a world-class industry in the UK is because of the input of people we have had from other countries and we are seeing people leave and fewer people come,” the letter read.

“I think for restaurants and hotels it’s going to be more of a problem – we will not only lose people but also expertise, and any industry that’s world-leading needs to continue to attract that expertise.”

The move by Carluccio’s might go some way to securing current EU staff – but it doesn’t address the future concerns around freedom of movement.

We asked one of our trusted mystery diners whether they think standards will slip across the industry post Brexit. Sharon commented: “Yes, in two years’ time if I go to a restaurant and all the Europeans have gone home, you know it might be staffed by people who don’t really want to be there. It would negatively impact the business.”

To ensure your team keep service standards up, it's key they fully understand the importance of the role and feel trusted to do a good job, keeping them motivated. Employee surveys are a great way to gauge how happy your team are and any issues that need addressing with further training so they can fulfil their role and ultimately keep your guests happy. For more information, get in touch with our team on 01225 470999 or enquiries@hgem.com, to discuss how our employee engagement surveys could benefit your business.

Back to Blog