UK hospitality 2022: Staff, sustainability, and safety

Credit: Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, explains why staffing, sustainability and safety will be priorities for the hospitality industry this year.

With the Omicron variant of Covid-19 dampening the festive season, hospitality businesses in the UK may look to the horizon with trepidation. The last two years have arguably been the most difficult that the sector has ever faced, and 2022 looks likely to bring challenges of its own.

Continued support for the sector will be crucial, but those businesses that have remained resilient throughout the pandemic thus far have shown that they are far from helpless even if government support is not forthcoming. Mounting vacancies continue to weigh heavily on businesses, but there are means to improve the situation. Likewise, capitalising on changing consumer priorities will provide a firm foundation for post-pandemic recovery to ensure it continues beyond the next year.

Solving the staff conundrum

With the sector’s vacancies now twice the national average, more must be done in 2022 to help hospitality workers feel supported to enjoy long and successful careers in the industry. And while it is encouraging that three quarters of pub and restaurant bosses plan to increase pay, improving the esteem of hospitality roles will be more important for recruitment and, crucially, retention, making both businesses and the sector more resilient in the long run. This means creating an environment which promotes engagement and loyalty through reward and positive performance management.

UK hospitality businesses currently employ a collective two million people, but few workers are ever involved in succession planning. By identifying potential leaders and supporting them to develop the skills they need to move into more senior roles, businesses can make hospitality a home for more young, ambitious workers who want not just a job, but a career.

Also crucial for attracting career-driven individuals is access to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities. True to their name, CPD empowers workers to develop the skills that most interest them. At Burgh Island, for instance, staff were keen to receive energy awareness training so they could help minimise the hotel’s carbon footprint. Providing learning opportunities such as this in the year ahead will ensure that employees feel more fulfilled in their work.

Safety and sustainability: Two key priorities in 2022

Energy awareness training is just one example of people’s increasing interest in sustainability — and this applies to prospective guests as well as staff. Next year, underlining sustainability credentials will be high on the agenda of hospitality businesses.

Embracing clean energy in 2022 will be key for hospitality businesses, both for attracting environmentally conscious guests and for playing their part in the fight against climate change. At Burgh Island, for example, we have bedecked our old disused tennis court with a new solar array that will help power a more sustainable future for the hotel.

In addition, upcoming development work will involve a “fabric-first” approach, using building materials with energy efficiency credentials above regulatory standards. New staff accommodation, for instance, will consist of low-energy timber-frame housing set behind dry stone earth shelter walls. Sustainability will literally be built into the business.

Enhancing the relationship with their natural environs is all the more important for hospitality businesses because they are often sought after for their idyllic setting. Sourcing ingredients sustainably is another way for these establishments to align with guests’ desires. Burgh Island proudly sources 80 per cent of our ingredients within a 30-mile radius of the hotel, which is both kinder to the climate and popular among guests with greater appetite for sustainability.

Meanwhile, best laid travel plans may yet come under threat from the newest Covid variant in 2022, serving as a timely reminder to businesses that anxieties around Covid safety have not gone away. In fact, according to The New York Times, the most important watchword in hospitality right now is not “relaxing”, not “luxurious”, but “clean”.

Of course, it should be a given that hospitality businesses maintain high standards of cleanliness on their premises. But the pandemic has changed what guests expect, and traditional types of cleaning alone will not suffice to assuage their anxieties.

Ensuring that surfaces are diligently disinfected, and all sanitiser stations regularly refilled will therefore be the bare minimum. These measures should be accompanied by clear signposting to leave guests in no doubt that “clean”, in the sense of Covid safety, really is the word of the day.

Supporting the sector in the face of Omicron

At the time of writing, the impact of the Omicron variant on the outlook for UK hospitality remains uncertain, but the above provides enough evidence for a positive forecast in the long run. Hospitality businesses throughout the UK have shown great initiative to survive successive lockdowns and many will be well positioned to thrive in 2022 and beyond.

In the meantime, however, the challenges wrought by Covid-19 will continue to cause concern. With recent data revealing that sales are still 10 per cent short of pre-pandemic levels, the sector must come together and share ideas on how best to deliver a robust recovery — and the high-quality service that guests demand. Hospitality businesses cannot do it alone, but they can still do much to stay on top of consumer trends and drive improved revenues in the year ahead.

This story was originally posted on 4 January 2022 on BoutiqueHotelNews.com

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