Has Brexit caused Chef shortage in the UK?

A substantial number of catering companies including restaurants have been citing problems with recruiting staff since the UK’s decision to exit the European Union. In the city of York, one local newspaper report found that scores of bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants had placed ads in their windows for chefs, waiting staff, kitchen staff and more. The situation in the city appears to be reflective of the nation as a whole.

Reasons given for the chef shortage include the increasing number of restaurants and other catering establishments, the number of EU nationals returning home after Brexit and worries about the outcome of the referendum. It’s also thought that there are more opportunities for EU nationals back home than there were previously. There are worries that restrictions on EU nationals working in the United Kingdom could worsen the problem further.

Though the problem is affected towns and cities across the UK, many say the issue is particularly challenging in tourist-orientated cities like York, where the supply of talented chefs is falling significantly lower than demand. Many restaurants are finding it hard to recruit experienced EU nationals due to would-be chefs’ worries about workers’ rights after the country exits the union. A survey carried out by KPMG for the British Hospitality Association said that a quarter of all chefs working in the UK originated from the continent.

There have been reports of entrepreneurs delaying or cancelling plans to open new establishments due to the chef shortage. The UK has long relied on chefs from Europe and other countries due to the modest number of homegrown chefs. The hospitality industry already needs to attract around 200,000 workers each year to replace those leaving the sector, and it’s thought that it will need a further 60,000 each year to avoid a shortfall of a million employees by 2029.

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit appears to be causing EU nationals to leave the country in advance of the process being completed, and there are substantial concerns about talented EU nationals no longer feeling welcome in the UK. Only time will tell what the true impact of Brexit on the hospitality industry will be.