The boss of Fortnum & Mason says the world famous London store is struggling to recruit staff after the Brexit vote with the situation most acute in its restaurants.
Fortnum’s chief executive, Ewan Venters, said one in five of the chef posts across its six restaurants were unfilled as the fall in sterling’s value and concerns about anti-migrant attitudes deterred applicants.
“Brexit is an alarming issue for me in terms of our ability to hire and retain good people,” said Venters. The collapse in the pound’s value means wages sent home to relatives are worth less but the businessman also sensed a change in mood among workers from the EU. “They are asking: ‘Do I feel welcome?’ That’s more the problem today.”
Venters’ comments echo concerns of other business leaders who are worried about a shortage of workers. EU citizens make up a quarter of the 3 million people working in the UK hospitalitysector, according to a report by KPMG.
Fortnum & Mason, founded in 1707 and best known for its flagship store in Piccadilly, central London, employs 800 people. About a tenth of the staff are chefs working in its upmarket dining venues which include the restaurant 45 Jermyn St, which occupies the corner of the Piccadilly store.
Venters was speaking as the retailer reported record annual sales and profits. Sales rose 14% to £113m while pre-tax profits increased 23% to £7.6m as the store becomes a destination for epicures seeking out British fare such as organic smoked salmon and salt-aged steaks from Northern Ireland’s Glenarm Estate.
Fortnum & Mason is also benefiting from Britons drinking more upmarket brews, with tea sales up 18% buoyed by unusual flavours such as lemon curd, gin & tonic and bloody Mary. Sales of its famous monogrammed wicker hampers were also up 15%.
“We are now anticipating a busy and successful Christmas period,” said Venters. “In times of uncertainty, customers turn to brands they trust and we have noticed an upsurge in the sales of traditional products recently.”
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