The Swiss catering industry is finding it hard to attract staff – apprentices included. Young people are turning their backs on the long and irregular hours that come with working in hotels. The Covid pandemic has not helped.
A glance at the statistics confirms the trend: in 2020, 429 young people started training as specialists in restaurant service – a drop of 40% on 2011 when the number was 731.
“It's very difficult. Especially since Covid. You practically can't find motivated young people who are willing to do an apprenticeship in the gastro-hotel sector,” Valentin Gay-de-Combes, manager of the restaurant La Porte d'Octodure in Martigny, canton Valais, told Swiss public television, SRF. Young people do not want to work weekends or in the evening.”
Staff member Marc Gay is an exception – he is the current Swiss champion in restaurant service. The 19-year-old won the showcase competition for apprentices organised by the sector last month. His passion for the job is clear, as can be seen in the video above.
The hotel sector is also affected by a lack of applicants. In 2011, 379 young people started an apprenticeship in the industry, but by 2020 this number had fallen to 252, according to statistics quoted by SRF.
SRF visited a hotel school in Passugg in the eastern canton of Graubünden, where some students said they were not fazed by the irregular hours. But others had ideas about how the work situation could be improved. “One variant is the four-day week,” catering student Mara Bourquin saidExternal link, adding that this would be up to businesses to decide. She expects appreciation and fair working conditions from future employers.
The lack of applicants is expected to have consequences for the sector.
Markus Schmid, president of the Valais Hoteliers Association, said there would have to be adjustments, for example through digitalisation of work and the cooking of fewer time-intensive dishes. "This will be an upheaval for the industry, and a modernisation," said Schmid. But it is not all bad. "What we offer will be different in future, but certainly not worse," Schmid continued.