The vocally pro-Brexit boss of JD Wetherspoon has urged the government to bring in a new visa scheme to help EU workers enter the UK as the hospitality sector faces a staffing crisis.
A combination of Brexit and Covid has seen many young workers return to their home countries, and pubs and restaurants around the UK are struggling to recruit staff. Restaurateurs and pubco chiefs have told the Standard the shortage is particularly acute in back-of-house roles.
Post-Brexit rules now make it harder for workers in lower-skilled, lower-paid roles to move to the UK, and a visa system could help such firms hire from abroad.
Tim Martin told the Telegraph: "The UK has a low birth rate. A reasonably liberal immigration system controlled by those we have elected, as distinct from the EU system, would be a plus for the economy and the country.
"America, Australia and Singapore have benefited for many decades from this approach. Immigration combined with democracy works."
Martin also suggested countries situated geographically closer to the UK could be given preferential treatment.
The shortage of workers to fill hospitality roles is acute. venues currently need more staff than usual, owing to the requirement for table-only service until at least June 21.
Latest statistics from recruiter Indeed show that job postings in the industry have soared above their pre-pandemic levels, standing last week at almost 20% higher than levels seen in February 2020.
Findings by software provider Fourth report that in the first quarter of this year, Britons made up the majority of those taking up new hospitality roles, a marked shift from 2019 when EU workers were the leading group.
Pub chiefs told the Standard they have seen the issue playing out since the April 12 reopening.
Marston's CEO Ralph Findlay said "labour is tight" across the sector.
Elin Hanson, of celebrated French restaurant Otto’s on Gray’s Inn Road, said she has seen many staff return to their home countries “because of the pandemic and Brexit”.
“Everyone is struggling to find qualified staff, especially chefs at mid-level. Visa requirements add further complications, and one of our chefs could not return due to this.”
The Home Office told the Telegraph it wants employers to focus on training and investing British workers to fill gaps, but that it is making it "simpler" for employers to hire from the EU and around the world "to complement the skills we already have".