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The Pandemic x Brexit Staffing Crisis Is Extremely Real for Restaurants

While Le Gavroche’s Michel Roux Jr has had to suspend lunch service, Wetherspoons boss and Brexit Big Man Tim Martin wants EU workers to come and staff his pubs

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Boris Johnson covers his face while Campaigning In Central London with Tim Martin of Wetherspoons
The reality of Brexit will be felt in pubs and hospitality venues like the ones owned by Wetherspoons boss, Tim Martin, here pictured with PM Boris Johnson
Henry Nicholls WPA Pool/Getty Images

The predicted twin forces of the pandemic and Brexit are beginning to converge and manifest in an unprecedented staffing crisis in the London restaurant and wider hospitality industry, with Michelin-starred Le Gavroche chef-owner Michel Roux Junior announcing that a labour shortage has left him unable to open for lunch for the foreseeable future.

On Instagram, Roux Junior wrote that “the past year has sadly taken a great toll on the hospitality industry” and despite the relief felt by many who’ve been able to reopen their dining rooms, “major problems” remained. “In this instance,” Roux wrote, “staffing.”

Since opening, restaurants up and down the country have suffered greatly with staffing problems partly due to new Brexit regulations as well as there now being a major lack of well-trained hospitality professionals since the pandemic struck. Whilst we have been working our hardest to resolve this issue over the last couple of months, Le Gavroche is sadly understaffed for the time being.

Whilst it is incredibly frustrating and painful to report this, we have decided to open for dinner only from 5 p.m. starting from June 14th until further notice.

In a long message, Roux, who was in 2017 outed for short-changing his staff, later added that “staff wellbeing is of utmost importance to us both mentally and physically” and that the team was “currently working tirelessly to ensure we can resume business as usual at the earliest opportunity.”

While the pandemic might have delayed the effects of Brexit and bought business owners time, it has served to obscure the impact not prevent it. In the past fortnight, restaurateurs across the city have reported that trade is up and their restaurants are full but that the labour market is stretched and finding enough staff at the right level is currently not possible. Some have been warning about this crisis for years.

The Brexit Party Conference Tour - Sedgefield
Tim Martin, left of Nigel Farage, far-right
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Elsewhere, at the other end of the spectrum and apparently without irony, to reignite the ire fire inside Remain ultras, Tim Martin, the Wetherspoons pub boss and Poster Boy of Brexit, has called for special visas for the EU citizens he requires to work in his massive pubs. Pubs that were formerly staffed in large numbers by EU citizens able to live and work freely in the U.K., but who, since the turn of the year, have not been able to do so because of Brexit, the project that the likes of Martin and his mullet hard-rallied behind for years. Yes, the pint-pulling-slightly-less-facist-Farage is among a number of voices in the formerly serious Daily Telegraph newspaper calling for a relaxation of work visa rules for EU migrants.

Martin said that a “reasonably liberal immigration system controlled by the U.K. rather than the EU will boost the economy.”

One former London restaurant worker who has recently relocated to Paris told Eater London that “you could not make it up, mec.”

Le Gavroche

43 Upper Brook Street, , England W1K 7QR 020 7408 0881 Visit Website