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Paul Hay, owner of Fish ’n’ Fritz, talks about the issues he has recruiting staff and how he’s handling it at his busy takeaway and restaurant in the tourist haven of Weymouth, Dorset

Normally at this time of year we would have between 18-25 staff; at the moment we’re lucky if we can get 10. It means for the last three to four weeks, the 48-seater restaurant here has been closed while the takeaway, which opens six days a week from 11.30am until 9-10pm, we are having to close at 8pm. It’s the only way we can manage because we just don’t have the staff. 

There’s the odd occasion where we have had to close entirely on a particular day, but it has been a fair few weeks since we’ve had to do that. When you’ve got part-time staff and young mothers, they’ve got commitments, they’ve got children that they’ve got to get home to and I understand that. 

I’ve been here 25 years and this is by far the toughest I’ve found it to recruit staff. I know all industries are experiencing it but hospitality seems to have been hit the hardest. Just walking around our town in the afternoon, the number of cafes that are closed, it’s sad. This is a seaside resort and this is the time of year when we all stay open, we shouldn’t be closed, no one wants that.

I know it’s a multitude of solutions that are needed to fix the problem, but one thing the government needs to get a grip on is Job Seekers Allowance. I get between four and six people a day coming through Indeed looking for work, which is fantastic. But we try contacting them for an interview or a trial shift and I’m lucky to get even one come in. It’s wrong, simply applying for a job shouldn’t be good enough.

Our takeaway is doing really well, thankfully, and it’s queues out the door every night. But that brings its own problems because we then get the odd person who can be quite impatient and asks one of our girls to cheer up when she has been standing at the till serving customers for eight hours. It’s not very nice, but I educate all my staff to consider the fact that we don’t know what sort of day they’ve had or their circumstances. 

If I do hear a customer insult my staff, I will always have a quick word and point out that they are working very hard, that they are very good at their job and that we are one of the few shops that are open in town.

It rarely happens but we have seen it more often this year. Having said that, the customers in the queue often deal with it for us and tell them they need to be more patient and understanding.

At the moment we are just taking things day-to-day. Our profit margin has reduced dramatically because we can’t keep putting up prices but, at the end of the day, I need to be open for the next lot of customers coming through and for the 10 staff who rely on me for their wages. This year it’s about paying the bills and anything leftover is a bonus. As long as we are still here, we’re doing okay in my opinion. 

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