Despite Covid-19: desperately seeking young talent!
For some restaurant operators, spur-of-the-moment retraining was the only way they could somehow keep their business afloat during the lockdown. For many, that meant going from head chef to coronavirus tester overnight. Restaurants became walk-in test centres. Of course, that only works in a limited number of cases and is not a long-term solution. Braake says, ‘The coronavirus crisis with its immediate effects on restaurant businesses meant that the already chronic lack of trained staff went from bad to worse. Many employees moved into other sectors and their return is uncertain.’
The industry was already suffering under the lack of trained staff even before the pandemic. That was brought to light in a DEHOGA economic survey conducted in autumn 2019. One of the issues the association noted in it is the fact that for about 67% of businesses, hiring qualified personnel is their biggest problem. This was also confirmed by longtime star and TV chef Peter Scharff. An independent business operator since 2007, he runs a cooking school and event venue and also offers catering and consulting services throughout Germany. Scharff speaks from experience. ‘The hospitality industry is brutal – and that didn’t start with the pandemic. You work very hard, often for low pay, so the prospects for young people in particular are not good enough.’ In his view, many trainees can’t handle the work schedules and systems long-term, and sooner or later they look for another option. ‘But we need – the industry needs – young talent desperately. Creative people who will enjoy helping to shape tomorrow’s hospitality industry,’ Scharff says.
They are out there – the ones who are persevering. Despite a March 2021 DEHOGA survey of 6,500 respondents, in which 25% of the restaurateurs surveyed said they are considering giving up their business, many still have hope and the will to keep their enterprise running. But to do that, they need staff. In addition, the demand for high-quality, sustainably produced gastronomy offerings is on the rise, as Braake reports. ‘On the whole, there is still an upswing. That’s because customers are more conscious about what they consume and are willing to pay a fair price for that. That goes for everything from between-meal snacks all the way to premium banquets.’ So, particularly in terms of sustainability, there is plenty of scope to shape tomorrow’s hospitality industry. What is lacking are the people to breathe life into it and shape it creatively now, as things are reopening.