Horeca faces labour shortage

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Horeca is suffering from a shortage of applicants, who since the Covid crisis have shunned low wages and shifts. This is a difficult situation for hiring managers.

A weekday evening in a concert hall in the capital. You have to fight your way to the bar in the hope of ordering a beer. Hope is the right word, because a young waitress, clearly inexperienced, is all alone to manage a crowd of thirsty customers. Ordering was laborious, so it will be just one drink during the show. A few days earlier, lunch with colleagues on the Place de Paris, a few rare sunny spells had attracted customers to the terrace. Here too, the waitress is visibly overwhelmed, "It's just me today", she says, as the lunchtime rush approaches. She doesn't have a second to herself as customers wait to order or pay, while time is running out. Such experiences are becoming commonplace, especially since the Covid crisis. For weeks, even months, the Horeca sector has been in a state of collapse. The employees who were laid off rediscovered the joys of family life and daytime working. And many did not want to return to a life out of sync. Three years on, the scars are still there and the sector has never really returned to normal.

Fabio* was manager of a well-known bar in the capital from 2020 to 2023. He loved the contact with the clientele, the nightlife, and seeing the bands that came to play, which he was able to enjoy. The hours, 5pm-1am, didn't bother him. Then everything changed with the arrival of a new boss, who drove all the staff out in a matter of weeks: "I was in charge and from one day to the next I was passed over for washing up… I realised that the new boss wasn't interested in everything I'd brought, so I left, and the others soon followed." He points out that today the new boss only signs contracts for 20 or 30 hours a week, with students who can't afford to complain. "It's a disaster, the service is really bad, the customers wait far too long. I know another boss in a bar where I sometimes do extras who can't find any staff to stay on. He's had three managers in three years! But he's making penny-pinching savings on the staff, who are then unmotivated and don't stay", says Fabio.

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