In another sign of the post-Covid recruitment crisis, one of London’s oldest Michelin-starred restaurants has closed its lunch service until further notice. Fitzrovia’s Pied à Terre says Brexit and Covid have impacted recruitment so badly it is no longer able to open for the whole day.
The restaurant said it could not “protect the welfare of the team and maintain the high standards of food and service the restaurant is renowned for”. Pied à Terre will remain open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday.
The hospitality industry has been in crisis mode since reopening from lockdown, with the double impact of Covid and Brexit causing many of its European employees to return home, with little sign that home-grown talent will pick up the slack.
Last week D&D London owner Des Gunewardena told City A.M. his group was also struggling to stay fully staffed amid a spike in customer numbers.
“Many of our French and Italian staff went back home during lockdown and had decided not to return to the UK or have decided only to return once all Covid restrictions on travel have been lifted.
“What we didn’t anticipate was the speed at which we would need to rebuild our staff numbers… Our front line teams have been severely challenged. They have had to work long hours to cope with being very busy while short staffed, particularly in our kitchens.
“At the same time the industry has to face the reality of a reduction in numbers of staff who have left the country or the industry. The pessimist in me sees continuing challenges in attracting staff, an inability to increase prices and a squeeze in profitability for the sector. Many continental European countries have experienced this and seen the quality of their restaurants cease to improve. Look at France.”
D&D has responded by running a “summer camp” aimed at bringing new staff into the hospitality industry.
“The government needs to support the industry both financially as it recovers from Covid,” says Gunewardena, “and in terms of enabling it to continue to attract the talent to maintain the UK’s hard earned reputation of having world class restaurants. That doesn’t just mean retraining young people in the UK. That is not likely to be enough. We will need to have policies to welcome enthusiastic, hard working staff from overseas – both high skilled and lower skilled – into the UK, to support our economic recovery.”
Earlier this month, two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche announced it would open for dinner-only due to staffing levels. Owner Michel Roux said: “While we have been working our hardest to resolve this issue over the last couple of months, Le Gavroche is sadly understaffed for the time being… “The alternative at this point would be to essentially overwork our existing staff which we are not prepared to do as I’m sure you can understand.”
The last month has been a rollercoaster for the embattled hospitality industry, with restaurateurs reporting higher than expected demand but suffering from the continued restrictions. While the remaining restrictions were due to end yesterday, they will now remain in place until at least 19 July.
Eran Tibi, chef and founder of Bala Baya in Southward, told City A.M. last week “The extension will continue to have a massive impact on a hospitality industry that is crumbling away – it feels like we keep getting crushed again and again.”