Wagamama warns prices could rise as it struggles to recruit

Pan-Asian chain Wagamama has revealed difficulties recruiting chefs at a fifth of its restaurants as the sector grapples amid a “perfect storm” of supply chain problems and staff shortages.

The group’s recently appointed CEO Thomas Heier said he was struggling to fill open chef positions in around 30 locations.

He said Brexit had an impact on the number of European workers looking for jobs in the UK, but also blamed fierce competition in the recruitment market as logistics companies resort to wage increases and high cash bonuses to address the shortage of truck and delivery drivers to fix.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Heier said: “We have seen a decline in our EU workforce in particular, but the other thing we are seeing is increasing competition from logistics and delivery companies, who are struggling with an increased number of jobs. “.”

This is also due to the fact that labor demand across the hospitality industry has increased due to the booming business following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and the British due to the pandemic, the company’s boss said.

He said the seasonally calm month of August saw sales at the level of trading spikes typically seen in the fall.

“It is a perfect storm with an above-average demand, with challenges in the supply chain and a shortage of staff on the logistics side,” said Heier.

While Wagamama is not in a position where there is a lack of chefs or ingredients, like many of his rivals, he has felt the pressure.

And he warned that this could lead to soaring food prices as the supply chain crisis deepens.

“I don’t think we or anyone else is out of the water,” he said.

The shortage of truck drivers has led big companies like Tesco and Asda to offer £ 1,000 starting bonuses for new recruits, while Amazon is also offering £ 1,000 “golden hello” to attract new warehouse workers in the face of increasing demand for online shopping.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), 193,000 new job advertisements were posted in the week ended August 29 alone due to skyrocketing labor demand.

Wagamama’s comments come when the group launched a “Pledge of Plants” campaign to encourage guests to eat more vegan dishes and cut down on meat and dairy products to help the environment.

It confirmed that under a previously announced commitment, starting October 6th, 50% of the menu will be meat-free for the first time.

The move comes in response to climate change concerns and in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November this year. Research suggests that switching to a vegan diet can help reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73%.

Wagamama is offering a free vegan side dish to customers who sign up for the Plant Promise online.

Mr. Heier, who succeeded predecessor Emma Woods in June, said: “We are making decisions big and small at the company level to make it easier for us to treat the planet.

“Now is the time to use our platform to ask guests to join us on this journey.”

Wagamama launched its first vegan menu on the high street in 2017 and since then its chefs have been creating meat-free alternatives to popular dishes such as vegan chilli “squid” with mushrooms as well as innovations such as the vegan egg and a watermelon “tuna”. ” Court.

Mr Heier also outlined plans to expand the 147-strong UK chain with the goal of expanding to around 40 more locations, including delivery kitchens, over the next five years.

Wagamama also plans to bolster its franchise in the US – where it currently has five restaurants – and work with partners to further expand across Europe.

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