Wagamama has warned the mounting supply chain crisis could lead to rising food prices as the chain struggles to hire chefs to fill vacancies in a fifth of its restaurants.
It comes as the hospitality sector battles a “perfect storm” of supply chain woes and worker shortages amid increasing demand following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
Thomas Heier, Wagamama’s recently appointed chief executive, said he was struggling to fill chef vacancies in around 30 of the chain’s 147 UK sites.
He said Brexit was impacting the number of European workers looking for jobs in the UK, but also blamed tough competition in the recruitment market as logistics firms resorted to wage hikes and steep cash bonuses to help plug lorry and delivery driver shortages.
Mr Heier told the PA news agency: “We’ve seen a reduction in our EU workforce in particular, but the other thing we’re seeing is increased competition from logistics and delivery firms who are struggling with an increased number of vacancies.”
The struggle to recruit comes as demand for workers across the hospitality sector has surged due to booming business following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and an increase in Britons staycationing, according to the firm’s boss.
He said August, which is usually a quiet month, had seen sales on a par with peak trading levels more commonly seen in the autumn.
“It’s a perfect storm of higher than normal demand, with supply chain challenges in the mix and a shortage of staff on the logistics side,” said Mr Heier.
He said while the pan-Asian chain has not been in a position where it is desperately short of chefs or ingredients, it has felt the pressure just as many of its rivals have.
He also warned the pressures could lead to rising food prices as the supply chain crisis mounts.
“I don’t think we or anyone else are out of the water yet,” he said.
The lorry driver shortage has seen big firms such as Tesco and Asda offering £1,000 starting bonuses for new recruits, while Amazon is also offering £1,000 “golden hellos” to attract new warehouse workers amid soaring demand for online shopping.
Rocketing demand for workers saw 193,000 new job adverts posted in the week to 29 August alone, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).
Wagamama’s comments come as the group launched a “plant pledge” campaign to encourage diners to eat more vegan dishes and cut back on meat and dairy to help the environment.
It confirmed that 50 per cent of its menu will be meat-free for the first time from 6 October, as part of a previously announced commitment.
The firm has also outlined plans to expand its UK presence, with aims for another 40 sites over the next five years, including delivery kitchens.