Wagamama stews over chef shortage and supply woes – EU workforce needed


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The group’s recently appointed chief executive Thomas Heier said he was struggling to fill chef vacancies in around 30 sites.

He said: “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.”

Mr Heier said demand for workers has surged across the hospitality sector due to booming business following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and the increase in staycations.

He said the seasonally quiet month of August saw sales on a par with peak trading levels normally seen in the autumn.

He added: “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.”

While Wagamama has not been in a position where it is desperately short of chefs or ingredients, it has felt the pressure like many of its rivals.

And Mr Heier warned it could lead to rising food prices as the supply chain crisis mounts.

The lorry driver shortage has seen big firms such as Tesco and Asda offering £1,000 starting bonuses for new recruits.

Rocketing demand for workers saw 193,000 new job adverts posted in the week to August 29 alone, according to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

Wagamama has 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 percent of its menu will be meatfree for the first time from October 6.

Wagamama will be offering customers that sign up to the plant pledge online a free vegan side dish.

Mr Heier, who took over from predecessor Emma Woods in June, said: “We’re making choices big and small at a business level to tread more lightly on the planet.”

He also outlined plans to expand the 147-strong UK chain, with aims for up to around another 40 sites over the next five years. Wagamama plans to boost its franchise in the US and to expand across Europe.

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