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Shortage of staff in the catering industry – technologies can provide a solution

There is an acute shortage of staff in the catering industry at the moment. With a drop of almost 15% of employees from 2019 ro 2021 the hospitality industry is one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. This has been no secret for a long time. As a central topic at industry meetings, both internal and cross-industry media such as the Tagesschau or Die Zeit now report on the struggle to recruit staff in which caterers currently find themselves.

Secure jobs are in danger

For a long time, gastronomy was considered a “safe haven” on the labor market. As a supposedly crisis-proof sector, both skilled workers and temporary staff could be sure of their jobs. This confidence was shaken at the latest with the closure of businesses during the corona pandemic. But even in the years before the pandemic, there were signs of change in the catering industry. Service and kitchen staff are expected to be highly stress-resistant and customer-oriented, often in combination with long working hours. More and more employees began to look for jobs in other sectors.

The result: an increasing shortage of skilled workers, which already poses a great challenge to managers. Added to this is the growing demand of guests for regional and freshly prepared dishes, preferably with front cooking. For this, however, there is a shortage of kitchen staff who now also must take care of the guests.

Shortage of skilled staff in various sectors

This problem was by no means first triggered by the corona pandemic. From 2007 to 2017, the number of apprenticeships started in the hospitality industry almost halved (source: Statista). By comparison, apprenticeships in the craft sector, in which interest is also known to be increasingly declining, only had a drop of about 15% in the same period (source: Statista).
The corona-related closures of companies have additionally fueled this trend. Among full-time employees alone, the number of employees in the hospitality industry declined by almost 15% from May 2019 to May 2021 (source: DEHOGA quarterly report). This does not yet consider temporary workers. In many businesses, they take on important tasks, but are not committed to the industry to the same extent as trained professionals. Unlike them, temporary workers are mainly concerned with the question of whether they will find their way back into the catering industry.

In the future, managers in the catering industry will not only have to worry about trained professionals, but also, at least in the medium term, about temporary workers, whose low social security contributions make them particularly attractive for minor work.

Measures against the shortage of skilled staff

Measures to recruit qualified staff are, as in every industry, on the one hand enormously expensive and on the other hand not always promising. Gastronomy as an employer is suffering image damage in this century, which even expensive marketing campaigns can only counter to a limited extent. An example: In 2003, training to become a chef was still the fifth most popular training program in Germany. In 2019, it was no longer even in the top 10 (source: Statista).

There are various approaches to making jobs in the catering industry generally more attractive. For one thing, it is possible to meet the wishes of the employees in terms of working hours and flexibility. Furthermore, the businesses can advertise for themselves and attract the attention of potential employees.

For many caterers, both measures mean high expenses, they have to revise their concepts and, in the worst case, make sacrifices in service to their guests. On top of that: Hiring and training new staff at peak times costs time and money.

Technological support

One possibility, which is considered by experts to be a short-term as well as a medium- and long-term solution, is to use the existing staff more efficiently with the help of digital solutions. These should take over parts of the work and thus free up capacities in the important places. For example, service staff are no longer tied to POS stations, no chef has to work overtime to update inventory planning and no manager has to spend hours poring over Excel lists to create the new staff schedule.

The potential of such solutions has now been recognized by more than just a few pioneers. Starting next year, even in the training for gastronomic professions, there will be more focus on sustainability and, in particular, digitalization.

Such solutions exist with different approaches: Support in creating shift schedules, management systems that handle inventory management or even intelligent self-checkout systems such as the visioncheckout.

demonstration of the visioncheckout

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