Bosses from chains including Nando’s, Starbucks and Prezzo have been drafted in to advise the government on its plans to boost the hospitality sector after the easing of lockdown this summer.
Amid mounting concern over staff shortages and supplies across the economy, ministers said the group of executives would help to identify and oversee actions that the government could take to smooth the post-pandemic recovery for pubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants.
Meeting for the first time on Wednesday, the council will include industry leaders from 22 hospitality firms and trade bodies, including UK Hospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, Burger King, and Deliveroo.
It comes as venues continue to be hampered by lower levels of footfall in town and city centres despite the easing of most pandemic restrictions, delivery disruptions, a lack of available workers, and rising costs.
Co-chaired by the business minister Paul Scully and hospitality entrepreneur and chairwoman of Prezzo, Karen Jones, the government said the council would help to devise “sensible solutions” using their expert knowledge of the sector.
“The hospitality industry has shown incredible creativity and resourcefulness through the pandemic, pivoting to new ways of doing business, like alfresco dining and takeaway pints, to stay safe, meet changing consumer demands and protect livelihoods,” Scully said.
“With the launch of this council, we’re taking the next step in the journey to build back better from the pandemic by unveiling the experts who’ll be driving the reopening, recovery and resilience of the sector. It’s a real ‘Avengers Assemble’ moment for the industry.”
Ministers have come under growing pressure to support businesses struggling to recruit workers and deal with supply chain issues. Earlier this summer, Nando’s became one of the most high-profile casualties of nationwide lorry driver shortages after it was forced to close some of its restaurants, while Prezzo has increased staff wages in response to labour shortages.
Business leaders have called for an expansion in post-Brexit visas for migrant workers to help firms fill recruitment shortages, after large numbers of EU employees left Britain during the pandemic. Faced with fuel shortages and panic-buying, ministers have bowed to pressure with plans to issue temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers and food industry workers.
The government said it had a hospitality strategy to support the reopening, recovery and resilience of the sector after the pandemic, including making it easier for venues to offer alfresco dining and extending availability of takeaway pints in England until July next year. It said it would also help firms with skills and training, apprenticeships and other qualifications.