Restaurants call for industry to focus on wellbeing to boost recruitment

Richard Bainbridge, chef patron of Benedicts, won BBC2's Great British Menu in 2015.

Richard Bainbridge, owner of Benedicts in St Benedicts Street, Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

City restaurant owners are urging the hospitality industry to improve work-life balance for staff after major changes reducing shift patterns have proved a success.

The calls come amid the national backdrop of staff leaving the sector during the pandemic for other professions.

Richard Bainbridge, owner of Benedicts in St Benedicts Street, said: "During lockdown we refocussed. We realised we wanted a better work-life balance and decided to work smarter."

He said staff do shorter shifts rather than long days and added: "It is nice to watch staff flourish. They are rested and excited. The industry is changing. You have to adapt and the hospitality business will come back stronger."

Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham, the Farmyard restaurant.

Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham, the Farmyard restaurant. - Credit: supplied

Hannah Springham, co-owner of Farmyard Restaurant in St Benedicts Street, The Dial House in Reepham and Farmyard Frozen on the edge of the city, said the business changed how its chefs worked in May last year meaning they work four days a week.

She said: "We saw recruitment problems drop. The whole industry style isn't acceptable in terms of long working hours. It isn't sustainable. There is a problem with burnout and mental health.

"There isn't much you can control in the restaurant industry but the one thing you can control is staff wellbeing and recruitment."

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Ms Springham added prices had to go up for customers, who understood the reasons why, but happier staff created a better restaurant experience.

She said there had been a crisis in staff retention for years but its change in policy attracted staff.

Middletons Steakhouse and Grill, Timberhill, Norwich that has undergone a £500,000 refit after suffe

Steve Hutton, managing director at Middletons Steakhouse and Grill in Timberhill, Norwich - Credit: Steve Adams

Steve Hutton, managing director at Middletons Steakhouse and Grill in Timberhill, which is one of nine in East Anglia, said: "Recruitment with chefs is a nightmare. It is difficult. During the pandemic a lot became Amazon drivers."

He added that pre-pandemic the group had 100 chefs and now has 20 vacancies and if hospitality jobs were not filled the sector would stagnate.

Mr Hutton said the business was looking into getting licences so it could recruit chefs from Asia and India and implored the government to review its immigration policies.

Aey Allen, owner of The Vine on Dove Street in Norwich which is re-opening after her outside licence

Aey Allen, owner of The Vine in Dove Street in Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

Aey Allen, owner of The Vine in Dove Street, said many hospitality businesses around her were struggling to attract staff and one reason could be fewer international students coming the UK.