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Pubs must embrace flexible working to ease staff shortages, Young’s boss says

The boss of pub group Young’s has said that the hospitality sector needs to embrace flexible working to help overcome labour shortages.

Simon Dodd, the recently appointed chief executive of Young’s, told the PA news agency that pub workers now want to work flexible hours.

He said: “Hospitality needs to really embrace flexible working, at an operating level.

“The sector has to adapt to ensure we give total flexibility for people joining us. And that really does aid retention.”

Young’s – which operates more than 200 pubs and hotels centred in London and the South – has an internal agency through which its staff can choose their hours.

Mr Dodd told PA: “We’ve got glass collectors who just want to work a couple of days here and there. We’ve got mums who drop their kids off at school and come and do a few afternoon shifts.

“We’ve got general managers that don’t want to work full time anymore, students who come and go, and head chefs who work flexible hours and don’t want to work at the weekend, for example.

“We’ve lost hardly anyone who joined us through our agency because they choose where and when they want to work. It really has no downsides.”

Hospitality has been one of the worst affected sectors when it comes to labour shortages, with many companies warning that the busy Christmas period will be dampened by a lack of staff.

Last month, trade body UKHospitality said that more than 250,000 seasonal workers are needed in the hospitality industry alone.

It has also been hit by higher costs, particularly food and drinks prices and soaring energy bills.

But Mr Dodd said that Young’s pubs have not hiked up its prices recently and does not intend to.

“We don’t think pricing your way out of any headwinds is the right thing to do”, he told PA.

“So we have been quite balanced in our approach to pricing.”

The group put its drinks prices up by 2.5% in March in line with the inflation rate at the time, and then lifted them a further 1% in September, but has made no changes since.

It also fixed its energy and drinks costs until the end of March 2024, meaning the business expects to be cushioned from the impact of soaring wholesale energy costs and drinks inflation.

Young’s reported that its like-for-like revenues were up by a fifth in the half year to September 26, compared to the same period last year, and ahead of pre-pandemic levels by 6.2%.

It also saw a bounce back in sales in London, which Mr Dodd said is due to a return of tourists and workers going to the office for more days in the week.

He added: “Beer is definitely back. Guinness is 41% up versus this time last year and performing extremely well for us.

“We are selling double the amount of cocktails than we did in 2019 – we’ve sold over £1 million worth of cocktails in the last six months.

“The number one cocktail is still Aperol Spritz. It just keeps growing.”

He added that Young’s will be introducing a range of desert cocktails over Christmas, such as a lemon drizzle mojito and a banoffee espresso martini.