A RESTAURANT owner said unless the Government reverses Brexit, all industries are going to suffer.

Neil Paterson, owner of the restaurant and bed and breakfast business Bistro en Glaze in Wylam, said it is difficult to recruit staff and businesses are also having to cope with increasing costs.

He said the industry is facing recruitment issues as there are easier jobs, people don't want to work anti-social hours, public transport in small villages is an issue and Brexit has led to staff shortages.

"We've finally got some staff but we've been struggling for months to get enough," he said. "We could still do with some more, but it's difficult to justify that when people haven't got the money to come out.

"Since the cost-of-living crisis started, we're getting customers at the weekend, that's not enough.

"There's not going to be a hospitality industry in a year. I've put all my savings in just to keep this place open for the last 18 months, there's a limit to what I can do. 

"We had more than 300 people apply for four posts. We invited about 35 folk for interview. Only eight bothered to turn up.

"There's a general lack of enthusiasm to do any work. Of the ones who came in, most of them were unemployable."

Hexham Courant: Euan, front of house manager Giovanna, and SueEuan, front of house manager Giovanna, and Sue (Image: Neil Paterson)

"Many of our present staff rely on public transport and in a small Northumberland village this is a problem as buses and trains stop too early. We have to send them home halfway through evening service.

"We're having to pay well in excess of minimum wages just to get people in who have no experience and we've got to train them. It's very depressing and frustrating because we've got a great product, my son's a chef and he's fabulous. People who come love what we're doing but it costs too much to run the place and to put the food on the plate." 

Neil said they tried to hire another chef to help his son Euan, who works from 7am until midnight preparing food for the restaurant and bed and breakfast customers.

"Unless you're a very big chain with a lot of money, you're not going to be able to buy the staff. We've even tried getting someone from college we could train up."

Neil said Euan has a great deal of experience and worked with a lot of people in the industry.

"It would be a brilliant opportunity for someone to work beside him and learn an awful lot, but we can't get anyone.

"We'd like to get somebody with a bit of experience, we can't take somebody absolutely raw."

Neil said if these problems aren't fixed, Bistro en Glaze will close.

"Other hospitality businesses will close. Everyone I talk to is on their last gasp. If it doesn't work in the next few weeks, there's going to be an awful lot of closures.

"People will miss them, when their favourite restaurant or pub is not there, but if the public don't use it, they're going to lose it."    

To encourage people to join the industry, he said the Government should 'reverse Brexit'.

"The whole of the Lakes is dying, because they relied on EU workers and nobody has enough staff." 

Before Neil and his family put in an offer to buy Bistro en Glaze, they were considering buying a business in Keswick.

"I'm glad we didn't because that's closed now, they had no staff. 

"We rely on foreign workers coming here and doing jobs and they're prepared to work. Now we've booted them all out, people are realising we needed them.

"Unless we reverse Brexit, we are going to struggle all across industries, not just hospitality."

The restaurant has hired two Nigerian men and a Nepalese man, who Neil says are prepared to work.

"We pay them the same as everyone else, but I think the UK workforce is broken.

"There comes a point where it becomes very difficult to fix such a broken system.

"Nobody seems to realise hospitality is dying on its feet."

Another owner has had a different experience of running a pub.

Alan Phillipson has owned the independent Hexham pub The Heart of Northumberland for eight years, and said the business is in a better position than most although he is still seeing increasing costs.

Hexham Courant: Outside The Heart of NorthumberlandOutside The Heart of Northumberland (Image: The Heart of Northumberland)

A new function room is being added upstairs which is hoped will increase trade.

"Our reduced operating margins will be counteracted by expanding the business with the function room. The industry as a whole is struggling with cost increases but thankfully Hexham feels like it’s having a mini-boom.

Hexham Courant: The Heart of NorthumberlandThe Heart of Northumberland (Image: The Heart of Northumberland)

"Being voted the happiest place to live on top of the Queens Hall, cinema and local events programme are really helping," he said.

Since the pandemic, Alan said the industry had seen a succession of issues.

Hexham Courant: The Heart's beer gardenThe Heart's beer garden (Image: The Heart of Northumberland)

"Since the pandemic, it's massive issue after massive issue.

"It feels like it's settling down a bit except for the cost side of it."

He said when the business has recruited in the last few months, they had a huge amount of applications, more than the previous two years.

Hexham Courant: Draught beer at The HeartDraught beer at The Heart (Image: The Heart of Northumberland)

"We've had a good few years, we're lucky we can run at a low margin for a while."

The pub has now hired the staff needed and Alan said more planning is needed to recruit staff than previously, along with making sure teams are well-paid.

"We always keep an eye out for good people, and I think if you get someone good come along, whether or not you've got availability, take them on. It's rare to find good people because there aren't that many applying for jobs."

He said hiring chefs in the industry has been an ongoing issue for 10 years and is gradually getting worse. 

"The pandemic has magnified the issue. There are not enough people coming into the industry. Being a chef is much better paid now so hopefully, that will attract more people into becoming chefs," he said.

In many hospitality businesses outside of Northumberland such as Cornwall and the Highlands, Alan said they relied on EU workers. 

"They're gone and that was a huge chunk. When you go to these areas now, you see the kitchens are open two days a week, pubs are closed half the time, they can't get any staff at all. 

"If there's no one to work in these places, they're just going to shut down," Alan said.