In the second half of 2018 inploi surveyed a large cohort of hospitality employees, candidates, and job seekers in order to better understand the hospitality employment market. A wide-ranging set of questions developed a comprehensive picture of the state of the UK’s hospitality workforce: where they are from, the stage of their careers, their hopes and aspirations for work, their behaviours and motivations when seeking employment, as well as the obstacles and challenges they face in achieving their goals.

This report summarises key trends and insights from our candidate community. It will be of particular interest if you work in the sector and are involved with hiring staff, if you operate/own a hospitality establishment, if you are a journalist interested in workforce trends, or if you have an interest in understanding the labour market in one of the UK’s most important and vibrant industries.

Why undertake a survey?

Hospitality, leisure, and tourism combined represent the UK’s 4th largest industrial sector, employing approximately 4.6 million people (BHA, Backing the future for hospitality and tourism, Sept 2015: BHA-EU-migration-final-report-170518-public-vSTC.pdf ). The industry is a cornerstone of the British economy, a key employment provider, and plays a vital part in the cultural life of the UK.

Staffing in the sector is an area of intense interest: many companies struggle to find the people they need to run effectively, ‘gig’ work garners increased attention and scrutiny, Brexit uncertainty looms large over access to EU workers, and companies are increasingly determined to fix the extraordinary inefficiencies that exist in the market through technological innovation. A firm understanding of the people who make up the workforce - their motivations and aspirations - is an essential point of departure to be best positioned for success.

inploi is laser-focussed on delivering the world’s best hospitality hiring experience for both employers and candidates. A deep knowledge of the candidate market, particularly their motivations and desires and their technological preferences helps us to achieve that.

This is the first in a series of reports we will be publishing, providing hospitality stakeholders with relevant information about the workforce, hiring practices, and how best to develop an employer brand.

Demographics & Employment in the Candidate Market


A fraction over half (50.5%) of respondents were British nationals, with the remainder coming from 61 other countries. British, Romanian, Italian, Indian, Portuguese, Swiss, Polish, French, and Greek nationals together making up two-thirds of the workforce. 85% of people were living/working in the UK at the time of the survey.

Age & Gender

Respondents were 62% male, 36% female, with 2% preferring not to say. People of all ages participated, ranging from 16 to 70 years old. A fairly even spread across age cohorts provides multi-generational insight.

Employment Status

The largest proportion of respondents (46.3%) were working at the time of the survey, whilst 40.7% were actively looking for work. Most of the remainder were studying. Interestingly, the highest proportion of work seekers was amongst those over 56 years old - suggesting an opportunity for the sector to tap into the ‘grey’ workforce.

Of those in employment, 69% were employed full time, 23% were working part-time, and only 8% were working ‘gig’ jobs. The rate of ‘gig’ employment was fairly constant at ~10% amongst those aged 16-30 years but dropped off substantially amongst the over 30s when full time-employment was up to 70%. This is consistent with people’s changing motivations for working in hospitality, with older respondents increasingly saying they were there because it was their career, whilst younger people working gig jobs were generally saving money for something else with less intent to build a career in the industry.

A multilingual workforce

The top 10 languages spoken to working proficiency are shown below. The vast majority (97.54%) of respondents, perhaps unsurprisingly, speak good English, with other languages representative of the immense diversity in the hospitality workforce.

Roll up, roll up! With so many jobs and opportunities, the sector attracts all types and requires a diverse skill set. The jobs occupied by respondents at the time of the survey reflect this, with the top ten roles ranked below:

Where are people working?

From hotels to restaurants, through bars, pubs, clubs, cafes, pop-ups and food vans, the UK’s hospitality sector is a vibrant mix of companies and opportunities. Where are people currently working? Here are the top 10 employer categories:

Where do they want to work?

There is a lot of fluidity amongst the hospitality workforce, with people moving between companies and roles as they become more experienced and seek new challenges. Reassuringly for hospitality employers, when asked where they wanted to work next, 58% of people said that their preference was to remain within the sector.

The next most popular destination for people currently working in hospitality was retail, perhaps unsurprisingly given the overlap in essential customer service and people skills. Retail was most popular amongst those aged 16-25 (17.8%) and 26-35 (14.8%).

Career moves

That the hospitality sector has high levels of staff turnover is not a revelation, but where do people go when they move, and what are they looking for?

Of those surveyed who were thinking about moving jobs, 42% wanted a different role within the same company - highlighting the importance of providing opportunities for existing staff to move and grow within organisations. 31% were looking for a different role with a different company, and 27% wanted to find a job outside of hospitality altogether. The desire to move position was strongest amongst those aged 16-25, declining with age, perhaps as people settle into particular careers. Only 0.2% of respondents indicated a desire to go freelance/ take up self-employment.

16-25-year-olds showed a higher response rate for positions associated with Front of House positions and Catering roles, including Waiter/ Waitress and Catering Assistant, or graduate training positions.

26-45-year-olds showed the highest response for managerial roles, including Manager, Bar Manager, Project Manager, Office Manager, Assistant Manager, and Food & Beverage Manager.

What is the main reason to work, or seek work?

A high percentage of respondents (45.1%) said that they were working in hospitality because it was their chosen career. The next most prevalent response (24.7%) was that people were working to save up money to travel/for some other purpose. This was most common amongst those aged 16-25, supporting the idea that this is the most transient proportion of the workforce.

Jobseeker challenges & frustrations

The inploi journey started with the team’s experiences when looking for hospitality work themselves. It is clear that many of the frustrations that they faced have persisted and that the candidate experience still leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest frustration reported by candidates was the lack of feedback provided to applicants when their applications are unsuccessful. This was closely followed by, “I never hear anything back regarding my applications.”

The source of this problem is likely structural and is certainly deep-rooted. Due to the nature of the jobs board/aggregator model, employers (particularly when hiring for jobs in the hospitality sector) have become accustomed to receiving a large volume of applicants for a role, with widely variant levels of quality.

Processing and communicating with all of these applicants is extremely time-consuming, in an industry where time is generally in short supply. This leads employers to cherry-pick good applicants and communicate with them, frequently ignoring the rest. The tools available to employers (frequently only an email inbox) are not designed to deal with these sorts of scenarios.

Firstly, affecting better candidate-job matches, so that the potential for meaningful connections is much improved. Huge volume is not necessary in this case.

Secondly, making it easy for employers to respond to applicants with automated messaging when (for instance) an employer fills a position, one-click responses using pre-saved templates, and other similar technological features to close the loop of employer- candidate engagement.

Two closely related complaints were “job applications take a long time” and “employers are slow to reply”. The first is a user experience problem, with candidates required to input the same information (or variants of it) numerous times, across the internet, as they apply for jobs. A centralised jobs portal making use of a standardised profile/ resume that contains the information required to evaluate a candidate goes a long way in dealing with this issue.

The second point - employers are slow to reply - has a significant impact on the dynamics of the hiring market, and is an area where there is room for improvement by employers. In a market where good hospitality candidates are in high demand, the reality is that they have a lot of options. Due to the factors discussed above, the normal approach of a candidate is to apply to a large number of jobs, expecting to hear back from only a few of them. If an employer wants to fill a role quickly, with a preferred candidate, it is essential that they move quickly when receiving an application.

The expectation of technology and communications in the 21st century is immediacy. If employers leave it too long before responding to a candidate there is a high likelihood that they will have been hired/be in somebody else's pipeline by the time of response. This frustrates employers, in addition to driving the ‘scattergun’ approach of candidates to applications. A solution to this is improving the ease of communication, particularly using cross-platform technology where conversations can be picked up on-the-go via mobile phone where necessary.

Where do people look for work?

On average respondents used a mix of 3.24 different channels to find work, including job boards, staffing agencies, apps, recruiters, walking the streets looking for signs in shop windows, newspaper/magazine adverts, and handing in CVs to managers.

A remarkable number of people still look for jobs offline, and interestingly there was not a noteworthy disparity in this across age groups. 21% of respondents expressed frustration with the fact that “jobs are listed in too many places.”

This last point is a serious inefficiency within online recruitment advertising space. A job may be listed in one place and is then picked up/scraped (generally without approval) by aggregators, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc. A chain of redirects is set up, with a job seeker bouncing between one, two, or even three sites before arriving wherever the job was listed originally and where applications are being accepted. The result is a poor candidate user experience, and what is more, value is being extracted from job advertisers all along the chain.

Of those who used a ‘next generation’ technology to look for hospitality jobs, a little over 50% of respondents used inploi to search and apply; more than the responses for other related platforms combined. We were surprised that very few people reported that they were using shift/gig work apps to look for work.

What motivates people?

Perhaps unsurprisingly the primary motivation for people to stay in or move from a particular job is the salary/wage that they receive, with 34.6% reporting that this was important. Interestingly this was most important among people aged 16-25, who were also the least likely to cite ‘job satisfaction’ as an important factor.

Amongst respondents in older brackets more qualitative factors came to the fore: of particular importance to people is the colleagues/team members they work with, the training and development opportunities available to them, a positive working environment, and being able to have new challenges. For those aged 56 and above, the prime motivator shifted from money to job satisfaction.

It is therefore clear that whilst pay is a very important factor, there are a lot of other things that matter to people when deciding whether to take a job, and whether to stay in it. In a competitive market this presents a huge opportunity for companies to stand out from the crowd by highlighting all of the things that make them special, attracting candidates by telling a story that resonates with them. Many places have amazing work environments, awesome training opportunities, exciting career trajectories, quirky, fun teams and many other defining characteristics, yet frequently candidates know very little about these and have to make a decision based on the plain text of a job ad.

Fundamentally people want a decent working environment, to be treated fairly, to have opportunities for development and advancement, to do interesting tasks, and to be paid fairly for their efforts. There should be no surprises here!


This report outlines the trends and key findings of the 2019 inploi Candidate and Job Seeker Survey. It evaluates the makeup of the contemporary hospitality workforce, and explores their work intentions and motivations. The insights contained herein present challenges and opportunities for employers and HR practitioners working in the industry.

It is clear that the sector’s workforce is as diverse as the foods and services it offers - a mixing pot of nationalities, ages, roles, workplaces, and skills. People have a wide range of aspirations and career objectives, look for jobs in a number of different places, and have a multitude of things that drive them to work. There are common variables which people regardless of their age, nationality, or role find important in the workplace: a decent working environment, to be treated fairly, to have opportunities for development and advancement, to do interesting tasks, and to be paid fairly for their efforts.

As outlined in the 2017 BHA Report Labour migration in the hospitality sector, A KPMG report for the British Hospitality Association, the UK hospitality industry is heavily reliant on foreign (generally European) workers. British nationals represented just over 50% of our survey respondents, confirming this point. Continued access to a foreign workforce is essential to the ongoing success of the hospitality industry, a cornerstone of the British economy with an impact that extends far beyond the cafes, restaurants, hotels, and pubs of the high street. Policymakers need to ensure that they do not inflict significant self-harm to the sector and the economy by crippling its supply of labour.

In the medium-long term there is much that can be done to address issues with the supply of labour, but this requires significant structural change which an already stretched sector is not ready for.

Nevertheless, there is much that can be done to improve the situation without requiring major investment. Nearly half of respondents expressed their frustration with the rate (or the lack) of responses from employers. Conversely, many employers complain about the lack of reliability amongst candidates who say they will come for an interview and never do, or who apply for loads of jobs and are then not available for many they have applied for. At the heart of this problem is the way that companies and candidates/job seekers currently interface. The incumbent technology people use to advertise jobs and reach candidates is no longer up to scratch. It is clear that the way people look for work is changing, and that the poor user experience they face causes significant frustrations across the board.

Those employers wishing to stay ahead of the crowd ought to actively seek ways to improve this, delivering a better candidate experience.

Doing so effectively will result in significant competitive advantages in the quest for talent. Furthermore, it is important for companies to actively seek to tell their stories, highlighting why a candidate should work with them as opposed to somewhere else. The data suggests that whilst money is an important factor in this decision, a number of ‘softer’ considerations are equally important. It is incumbent upon employers to tell this story if they are to get ahead.

This is why we have built inploi - to help the best brands develop a competitive edge in their hiring so that they are better staffed, and operating as effectively as possible; without wasting money on legacy advertising channels.

That’s a wrap!

We hope that you have found this report interesting and that the commentary and advice contained herein resonated with you.

If you are interested in learning more about how inploi can future-proof your online hospitality recruitment and employer branding please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team - we’d love to work with you!

Got a question? Get in touch with our Sales team to discuss your brand and hiring needs at [email protected].

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