New analysis by industry association UKHospitality has revealed the extent of the staffing crisis facing a sector that is already in a hugely fragile state following more than a year of closures and severely restricted trading.
Its analysis is based on a survey of hundreds of hospitality operators.
The shortage of front-of-house staff and chefs is particularly acute, with 80 per cent of those surveyed reporting vacancies for front-of-house roles, such as waiting and bar staff, and 85 per cent need chefs.
Some 47 per cent have housekeeping vacancies and 43 per cent are looking for assistant or general managers.
The survey suggests a current vacancy rate across the sector of nine per cent - which implies a shortage of 188,000 workers.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The government must restore confidence in the hospitality sector so that it is again seen as a stable employer and provider of fulfilling careers.
“To facilitate this, it must stick to the re-opening roadmap, lifting all restrictions from June 21st.
“This will restore consumer confidence and give a strong signal to workers that hospitality will bounce back strongly.
“Beyond this, the single biggest act of support that government could give would be to encourage more UK-based workers to join the hospitality sector.
“It is also time for the government to review its list of shortage occupations and consider the introduction of an Australian-style visa scheme to enable the workers we need, who don’t meet the point-based system, to come and work here.”
The survey showed that for overseas workers, many of whom returned home at the beginning of the pandemic, travel restrictions were a primary reason they had chosen not to return to the UK.
Nearly a fifth said the cost of quarantine on return was preventing them from coming back.