The impact of Brexit on the UK hospitality industry and what businesses can do

We explore the impact of Brexit on the UK hospitality industry, and share how businesses can adapt to survive.
Michael Radley
Feb 2021
3 min read

The UK hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. And with England leaving the EU, changes to immigration laws, food prices and regulations threaten business survival.

Find out how hospitality businesses can minimise the impact of Brexit on their businesses.

The impact of Brexit on the UK hospitality industry


Changes to the UK immigration system means that as of January 31st 2021, any ‘low-skilled’, non-UK workers earning less than £20,480 won’t be allowed to be employed in this country. This is a huge blow for the hospitality sector which relies on non-UK workers to fill entry-level jobs.

Currently 25% of the hospitality workforce in the UK are EU nationals—meaning as many as one in four roles could be left unfilled.

While this problem might not be top of mind right now—with businesses facing unemployment issues due to Covid—it threatens to worsen in the long-term. The hospitality industry, which has always struggled with staff retention, needs to find new ways to attract and retain UK talent.

Food prices

Food prices are predicted to rise between 3-5%. While this may not seem like a lot, a rule of thumb in the hospitality industry is a 10% profit margin, so any change will be a big blow to the bottom-line. Especially as businesses are recovering from the economic impact of Covid.

Consumer confidence

A threat to the money in customers’ pockets has a real and direct impact on the sector. If the economy is unstable due to the uncertainty around Brexit, people will spend less disposable income—meaning less dining out. On top of that, as food prices rise, eating out will become more expensive, which could further put people off.


On a more positive note, there’s a reported upturn in ‘staycations’ driven by Covid. And more expensive European holiday prices as a result of Brexit, might help increase this trend.  

Plus, in a post-Covid world, US and EU holidaymakers will likely take advantage of cheaper prices in the UK due to better exchange rates—causing a spike in tourism, which will benefit the hospitality industry.

What hospitality businesses can do

Navigating Brexit’s choppy waters is not going to be easy. The biggest challenge facing the sector is staff shortages. Operators need to inspire people to see the potential benefits of working in hospitality. Here’s how:

Build a positive work culture

Put teams at the heart of your business. Create a culture that nurtures and supports them.

Start by listening. When we feel that our opinions are being listened to and we’re involved in the business, we become more engaged. And, engaged employees invest in their work, their company, and are more likely to stick around in uncertain times (like Brexit).

Do more with less

Embrace technology to automate processes, and do more with less. Simplify information flow across key touch points, digitise checklists, and integrate staff and inventory management. This will help free up manager’s time, so they can focus on training teams and building a positive work environment.

Invest in your team

Employees need to constantly grow in order to feel fulfilled. Show your team that a career in hospitality is exciting—demonstrate the global demand and rewarding opportunities for highly experienced chefs, sommeliers, and bartenders, many of which start in entry-level positions and grow.

Invest in your employees future, and they’ll be more likely to stick around (even in a pandemic or Brexit).

Be flexible

Research shows staff are more likely to stay at a workplace that gives them control over how and when they work, yet only 9% of hospitality businesses offer flexible work policies. To stay competitive in the job market, empower employees and give them the flexibility they need.

How Trail can help

In this period of uncertainty, efficiency in operational processes, training, and effective management of teams is key.

Trail helps streamline operations, so managers can focus on the important things—like creating unique customer experiences, and training employees. Here’s how:

  • Empowers teams - Teams are empowered to do their work efficiently; managers are freed up from chasing and can focus on coaching teams.
  • Do more with less - Trail’s digital checklists and forms are designed for speed and simplicity. Everyone is more efficient, so you can do more with less people.
  • Better visibility - Managers have real-time visibility, so they can see what’s happening on site, see which team member’s are struggling and dedicate time to supporting them.

What customers are saying

"It’s the app I can’t live without in my working day."
Beth Cole
Assistant General Manager
"Trail is making it easier for our teams to ensure our food and safety practices are upheld."
– Trail is making it easier for them to ensure our food and safety practices are upheld."
Tracey Colbert
Risk & Compliance Director
"Our teams love it, it gives our managers of all levels absolute clarity on what they need to achieve every day."
James Brown
Operations Director
"Trail was so easy to set up and the pubs love it"
Simon Swann
Regional Manger
"We turned our Costa Checks and various compliance forms into regular tasks on Trail, which has contributed to some of the best scores we have had."
Delroy Daniels
Operations Director
"Trail has given us realtime insight into every facility across our estate, so we can react to maintenance issues before they become large."
Scott Vernon
Chief Financial Officer

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