Could the retail sector’s loss be the hospitality employers’ gain?

Take a glance at the news or visit your local town centre and you might forecast a bleak future for the UK high street. With the latest retail casualties once seen as high street stalwarts, it’s easy to imagine a wasteland of boarded up shop fronts. However, the reality is far from pessimistic. It’s clear that the high street is evolving, driven by the tough economy and changing consumer habits. Some high profile retail brands (along with their employees) are suffering in the process, but there is continued growth taking place in other significant areas. Most notably, in the branded restaurant sector.

A recent report by construction data analysis firm Planning Pipe highlighted that planning permission applications from restaurants are at their highest ever rate, with two proposals currently being put forward each day. The UK high street now boasts a huge range of branded dining options, with Nando’s, Cote, Café Rouge, Wagamama and Carluccio’s amongst those with multiple new openings. Pubs and bars are also developing their offering, with Greene King just one example of a brand with sites undergoing refurbishment and expansion.

This good news for the sector also brings with it significant challenge, as new openings require teams of high quality staff. With the skills shortage in the hospitality industry as acute as ever, restaurant sector employers are in constant need of relevant candidates. As any HR Manager in branded restaurants will tell you; it’s an unrelenting pressure.

Could the changes on the high street provide some respite to the hospitality industry’s thirst for candidates? With hundreds of retail job losses being announced, many in customer facing roles, could the retail sector’s loss be the hospitality employers’ gain?

Many believe that the skills required for customer facing staff in retail and hospitality are different. Yet, aren’t the hallmarks of a strong front of house candidate (chiefly the ability to provide a great customer experience and sell up in the process) shared by retail candidates too?

If that’s the case, then could branded restaurant employers benefit from fishing in the growing pool of available retail candidates?

For some, looking beyond the industry may seem a step too far, but the concept can apply within it too. Candidates who wish to move across industry sectors often find resistance from prospective employers, who prefer to recruit in their own image. Yet, if blue-print candidates are in short supply, those from other sectors can often provide the answer. Might candidates with transferable skills provide part of the solution to hospitality employers’ endless recruitment needs.

Many forward thinking employers with effective recruitment strategies seek candidates with transferable skills, not just within their own organisations but beyond into other sectors and industries. With growth in the UK hospitality industry ongoing, despite the grim economic conditions, it’s clear that recruitment needs are not going to fade.

Should hospitality employers be growing their talent pool by embracing candidates with transferable skills? If so, the UK high street may be just the place to start.

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