Hotel managers ‘are taking bed linen home to be washed’

Hotels are struggling to give guests clean sheets and towels and delaying check-ins as the staycation boom, staff shortages and Brexit disruption causes a perfect storm.

Managers have reported needing to take linen home to be washed, as laundries struggle to keep pace with demand.

Intercontinental Hotel Group, owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, is among the chains warning they are having to trim services to deal with the pressure on staffing and logistics.

Kenneth Macpherson, chief executive of IHG Europe, Middle East and Africa, said daily bed linen changes had been limited at some hotels for guests staying multiple nights. 

‘The laundry supply chain cuts across staffing challenges, distribution and logistics,’ he told the Financial Times.

Many hospitality firms scaled back operations and furloughed staff at the height of the pandemic, and are now having problems as workers found jobs elsewhere or moved back to home countries. 

Kate Nicholls, chief of the UK Hospitality industry body, said the problems were ‘across the sector’. 

‘We have had general managers taking laundry home in order to get towels turned around because the commercial laundry providers haven’t been able to guarantee the delivery… this is a common issue across the whole of the food supply chain and the logistics supply chain behind hospitality,’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live. 

Daniel Browne, owner of Blossom & Browne’s Sycamore, which washes linen for many London hotels, said it had been ‘bloody horrific’. ‘We are living on a knife edge, everyone is under pressure,’ he told the FT. 

The grim picture emerged amid fears the UK faces two years of labour shortages.

A ‘perfect storm’ from Brexit and the pandemic has left businesses battling shortages of lorry drivers, waiters, chefs and construction workers, according to the Confederation of British Industry, which represents 190,000 companies.

Director general Tony Danker warned that the ‘acute’ skills shortages will extend into yet more industries and may not resolve themselves until 2023.

Managers have reported needing to take linen home to be washed, as laundries struggle to keep pace with demand

Managers have reported needing to take linen home to be washed, as laundries struggle to keep pace with demand

Britain faces two years of labour shortages, a leading business group said, after a ‘perfect storm’ from Brexit and the pandemic has left businesses battling scarcity of lorry drivers (file image) 

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls

Tony Danker

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls (left) and CBI head Tony Danker have been delivering grim warnings about the problems with supply chains

The Government’s ambition to turn the UK into a ‘more high-skilled and productive’ economy is right, he said, but argued ministers should implement short-term solutions such as relaxing immigration rules to help hard-hit industries. 

Hundreds of thousands of overseas workers, who left Britain during the pandemic, have stayed abroad while others left in the face of stricter immigration rules following Brexit.

Mr Danker said: ‘While the CBI and other economists still predict growth returning to pre-pandemic levels later this year, furlough ending is not the panacea some people think will magically fill labour supply gaps. These shortages are already affecting business operations.

‘The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right, but implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong. 

‘Some members suggest it could take two years rather than a couple of months for labour shortages to be fully eliminated.’ 

The shortages have disrupted firms as they battle to bounce back from the pandemic, put pressure on wages and prices and threaten to chip away at Britain’s fragile recovery.

Restaurants have had to shorten hours despite booming demand from Britons on staycation, and hotels have reported limiting the number of bookable rooms because they do not have enough staff to launder guests’ linen.

Delivery times for some goods such as kitchens and furniture have doubled, while gaps in supermarket shelves have become a regular sight for shoppers.

Last week Ikea apologised to customers after 1,000 of its products were disrupted by the shortage of lorry drivers.

To fill gaps in their workforce Tesco and Asda have offered £1,000 starting bonuses to attract lorry drivers, while Amazon is offering £1,000 ‘golden hellos’ to attract new warehouse workers.

The end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is only expected to provide temporary relief due to a mismatch in skills between vacant jobs and the newly unemployed.

There were still 1.9million on furlough at the end of June and economists predict that between 150,000 and 280,000 will lose their jobs when support is withdrawn at the end of the month. There are currently 1.6million out of work.

Yesterday Wagamama revealed it was struggling to hire chefs across 30 sites. 

Its boss Thomas Heier said many hospitality workers were taking jobs as drivers and warehouse workers as they offer higher wages and cash sign-on bonuses. 

Wagamama is currently offering £10.45 per hour for a head chef in London. The living wage in the capital is £10.85.

Wagamama revealed it was struggling to hire chefs across 30 sites and boss Thomas Heier said many hospitality workers were taking jobs as warehouse workers for higher wages (stock image)

Wagamama revealed it was struggling to hire chefs across 30 sites and boss Thomas Heier said many hospitality workers were taking jobs as warehouse workers for higher wages (stock image) 

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