Midlife workers may shift the face of the hospitality industry, as new research reveals industry “boomerangs” could help plug the sector’s labour shortage while also meeting consumer demand for workers over 50.

The research, conducted by the UK’s largest hospitality jobs board, Caterer.com, reveals that 2.5 million people over 50 are interested in moving into the hospitality industry while almost half of the population (45%) say they’ve worked in the sector at some point in their lives. The demographic presents a potentially abundant talent pool for hospitality employers – almost a third (30%) of workers over 50 are looking for a career change and when considering career options hospitality is the most popular choice for a career move.

The survey of more than 4,250 consumers and hospitality employees shows that workers over 50 have the potential to deliver strong business results for restaurants, bars and hotels by improving customer experience and loyalty. One in four (25%) consumers say they would trust hospitality workers over 50 to take their order and payment more than their younger counterparts, while 38% would be more comfortable if a hospitality worker over 50 handled their complaint or assisted in a crisis.

The research also reveals why the hospitality industry is a top pick for workers over 50, including flexible shift patterns, strong social engagement and positive workplace culture. With keeping active proven to be an important factor in ageing better, almost half (48%) of people say working in the sector is a great way to achieve this. A further quarter (25%) of workers over 50 say the salary and tips available in hospitality jobs are appealing.

Caterer.com has worked with transformational charity, The Centre for Ageing Better, to help employers welcome older workers back to the hospitality industry – or those joining the sector for the first time. To support employers and employees in creating more effective working environments, the two organisations have produced information guidance which can be downloaded here.

According to research of hospitality workers by Caterer.com, the most common roles held by employees aged 50 – 64 are:

  1. General management
  2. Chef
  3. Kitchen staff / support
  4. House keeping
  5. Front of house / customer service

Neil Pattison, Director at Caterer.com, said: “Our research shows that workers over 50 are among the most valued demographics in the hospitality industry with many customers placing greater trust and confidence in them.

“The hospitality workforce is set to be heavily impacted by the government’s new proposed immigration rules, so many employers are actively reaching new talent pools to find the people they want to hire. Older workers are one such valuable group. It’s key that employers challenge the stigma that might be associated with age and nurture progressive attraction and retention strategies that look beyond traditional hiring habits. Employees with years of experience behind them bring a fresh perspective to a workforce, having gained a wide range of skills and knowledge during their careers. There’s also the likelihood they will bring connections and customers with them which could further benefit hospitality businesses. Caterer.com encourages employers to review all stages of their hiring process, from job adverts to employee benefits, to ensure they consider applicants of all ages equally.”

Patrick Thomson, Senior Programme Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “With fewer young people entering the workforce and over-50s currently making up nearly a third of all workers, it’s clear that older workers are not just the workforce of the future but of today. With many employers worried about skill shortages in the wake of new immigration plans, it’s vital that employers in industries like hospitality are able to make the most of the talent and experience the over-50s can bring to the workplace.

“There’s plenty employers can do to ensure they aren’t missing out. Hiring age-positively can bring in a diverse workforce – this includes advertising in a way that attracts the widest pool of candidates. Flexible working is crucial to supporting those with health needs or caring responsibilities to stay in work. And making training and progression available to employees at all ages is good for retention, making workers feel valued in the workplace.”

62-year-old Colin Campbell spent 38 years working as an electrician on oil rigs in the North Sea before retiring in 2018. Wanting a new, vibrant and social career, he’s now a concierge at a hotel in Inverness and says he’s never been happier.

Colin, said: “Working in the hospitality industry isn’t something I had ever really thought of, but it’s been brilliant. I get to meet new people every day and use my local knowledge to arrange trips for guests and make restaurant recommendations. With my age, I’ve travelled a lot and lived in hotels. I think the life experience of older workers is invaluable. We’ve seen a bit of the world and have a good understanding of what people want, so I guess I do bring something extra to the table.

“I’ve enjoyed the transition to a new environment and have adapted well. I really feel like I’ve just slotted in. I now come home from work with a smile on my face and could not be more satisfied with my job.”

Carterer.com and Ageing Better have produced guidance to support hospitality employers in hiring older workers. It can be downloaded here.

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