Great Debate: Not enough people in UK willing to work in hospitality, says Yotam Ottolenghi

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Not enough people in the UK are willing to work in hospitality, despite rising pay and better working conditions, a leading restaurateur has said.

Chef Yotam Ottolenghi told Sky News's Great Debate on immigration that he was "seriously struggling" to recruit across the board - from front of house staff to managers and head chefs.

He said he estimated pre-pandemic more than 50% of his staff would be from overseas, but now the industry is currently undergoing a "perfect storm" of people leaving.

He blamed the "Brexit effect", adding: "Our pool for recruitment has really diminished from many hundreds of millions, which was the EU, to the borders of this country.

"We just can't seem to able to get enough people through the doors for job interviews and for the positions we have to fill on all levels."

Even positions that pay up to £60,000 he was struggling to fill, he said.

"There are just not enough people in this country willing to work in this industry full stop," he said.

Ottolenghi was speaking during Sky's Great Debate, which asked: Does Britain need more immigration?

Dragon's Den star Theo Paphitis, author and activist Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, chairman of Migration Watch UK Alp Mehmet, and government adviser on migration issues Madeleine Sumption spoke with Sky's Trevor Phillips and a studio audience about the issues around immigration.

Dr Mos-Shogbamimu said the "biggest problem is the way we talk about immigration", and said the language itself was "rooted in xenophobia".

"The government lacks the competence to deal with this," she added.

"It's very much about them versus us.

"The people who saved our lives last year during the pandemic would not be welcome in terms of the standards that are in place, if you are only going to focus on high skilled."

She added: "When this country has needed the help of immigrants - whether it was the Windrush generation or those who have come from Ireland - so many people came here and made this country what it is today.

"We should not be in 2020 tolerating an environment that excludes people."

Entrepreneur Theo Paphitis said the key lay in training up UK staff, but blamed the inaccessibility of the government levy.

There are a billion pounds, he said, that employers can't access to use on apprenticeships. He added: "If they eased that we could help the skills gap right now.

"The money is in the pot."

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