The hospitality sector may have suffered some reputational damage during the pandemic but improving the appeal of the sector as a place to work is largely in the hands of operators themselves, Jens Hofma, chief executive, Pizza Hut Restaurants, tells MCA.

“It’s important that you have a great engaging culture – a place where people actually want to work, that people feel they are respected, and that they have opportunities for advancement, and great training programmes,” Hofma said.

He said the sector’s ability to attract workers was also very much dependent on operators’ ability to create an aspirational work environment and that the benefits of it being a largely meritocratic industry should be promoted more readily.

“We need to get the message across again, as a sector, that we offer very valuable, very worthwhile, employment to people,” he added.

“By and large I think it’s in our own hands to make sure that jobs in hospitality are appreciated, that they are truly valued and that there are jobs that can be very rewarding.”

The impact of lockdowns and trading restrictions also gave rise to workers leaving the hospitality sector, and other sectors, to work as delivery drivers, for example – something Hofma does not believe offers the same benefits as a job in hospitality.

“To learn how to work as part of a team, how to provide service to guests, to be polite, to engage people in conversation, to anticipate needs, to be kind, to be friendly – these are all skills that you learn when you are on the frontline of a hospitality business,” he explained.

“A lot of these jobs are being replaced by more lonely jobs, like sitting on a bike delivering things, or working in a warehouse. I don’t think that it’s the same quality of employment as what hospitality can offer.”

Hofma said that following a dip in trading due to the Omicron variant, trade has picked up really well since. He said his staff were also “hugely relieved” to be back at work and enjoying being back in a restaurant and working as part of a team again.