UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls spoke at a parliamentary reception yesterday (22 November) about the current challenges faced by the hospitality sector and the solutions required to address them.

At the event at the House of Commons, Nicholls also reflected on the recently announced Autumn Budget. She encouraged the government to prevent the sector from reaching a “cliff edge” in April.

“it’s vital we have ongoing energy support for key economic, but vulnerable, sectors like hospitality,” she said.

Nicholls further identified the structural challenge of business rates relief, which is restricted to small businesses.

“It is our medium-sized businesses which are looking to grow,” she added. “These businesses were opening two sites a day pre-Covid. “There needs to be a rebalancing of bricks and mortar and clicks and mortar to ensure online pays its fair share.”

Nicholls went on to speak about investment in jobs and skills, calling attention to the labour shortages deterring economic activity and recovery. While the industry is working to build a positive record on apprenticeships and training, she called for a reform of the apprenticeship levy to further support the sector.

Nicholls highlighted initiatives such as the Hospitality Rising recruitment campaign, which has seen 7,000 jobseekers within two weeks of its launch.

“There are inflationary pressures on bottom line viability and the constraint on top-line in meeting demand, particularly as we reopen foreign tourism in what will be a strong recovery year given the King’s coronation, Eurovision and a weak pound.”

Simon Jupp, Conservative MP for East Devon, who was also present at the reception, tells MCA the government should consider easing immigration policy, particularly to allow high-skilled labour into the country.

Pointing to the shortage of chefs across the sector, Jupp says concerns over the labour shortage should be taken into account by the government, alongside clarity on utility bills.