AN EMERGENCY “staffing summit” is being held tomorrow to tackle the “chronic” shortage of chefs and kitchen and front-of-house staff in York’s vital hospitality industry.

Graham Usher, chairman of the York Hotelier’s Association, said an unprecedented number of new businesses opening in the city had heightened the problem. Mr Usher, who is general manager of the Best Western Monkbar Hotel, said that in all his years in the industry he had never known there to be such a shortage of chefs, which he said was now at crisis level. He said recruitment agencies both regionally and nationwide were unable to meet the demand for new catering staff. Of the recruiters surveyed, 60 per cent reported that they were unable to meet demand from restaurants over the festive period due to a skills shortage.

The findings from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation come from businesses surveyed across the country last month. Ninety-three per cent of the agencies questioned said that there were not enough chefs to meet growing demand.

This comes at a time of record expansion in the restaurant sector nationally and in York itself, which Mr Usher said was exacerbating the problem.

He said: “York’s hospitality sector has weathered many crises over the years, but this shortage of chefs and catering staff is unparalleled. And with new restaurants opening on a weekly basis, it is only going to get worse.

“This shortage of chefs can only get worse when demand is at such an all-time high. Combine that with uncertainty about skilled immigrants following the EU referendum, and we face a profound crisis for York’s hospitality industry.

“If chefs and skilled catering staff on the regional and national job market continue to decline, restaurants and hotels will be forced to either pass on higher recruitment costs to the customer or simply go out of business.

“The council just can’t keep on giving permission for new bars and restaurants when there isn’t the staff to work in them. If they do then it will lead to serious problems. Corners will be cut and customer service, hygiene, food standards and job satisfaction will all be the losers.”

He said tomorrow’s meeting would mainly be for people in the hotel sector and was intended to start a long-term process, drawing in people from other parts of the hospitality sector, education and local government.