Belfast Telegraph

Recruitment fears for owner of pizza chain Franco Manca despite profits boost

Brexit is already making it harder to recruit skilled staff in the UK, according to the owner of fast-growing pizzeria Franco Manca.

Fulham Shore, which also owns The Real Greek restaurants, said while the long-term effect of Brexit is still "unknown", it is already affecting the availability of "skilled European restaurant staff".

The warning adds to fears that the UK is facing a Brexit brain drain, as talented EU workers consider leaving due to the uncertainty they face as the country prepares to leave the bloc.

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May laid out her plans to grant EU nationals in the UK "settled status" and the right to stay in the country after Brexit.

But the offer is contingent on Britons in Europe receiving an equivalent deal, which means Europeans in the UK are still living under a cloud of uncertainty.

David Page, the chairman of Fulham Shore, said: "The result of the EU referendum has created considerable uncertainty of immigration status of EU nationals."

He added the group has been trying hard to mitigate these issues, by investing more in its human resources teams and by implanting new incentive schemes "designed to retain key individuals".

Despite the warning over staffing issues, Fulham Shore reported a strong set of results, with a 41% increase in full-year revenue to £41.3 million in the year ending March 26.

The lion's share of the revenue came from Franco Manca, helped by the opening of 13 new pizza restaurants over the year.

Pre-tax profits were 170% higher than the previous year, at £1.1 million.

Mr Page cautioned "we are entering a difficult forecasting period due to Brexit", in which "some restaurant businesses will make the grade and others will not".

While Fulham Shore's current trading is in line with expectations, he said that there are "many uncertainties out there".

"Another General Election would be unhelpful, terrorist incidents have always reduced London public confidence (and therefore restaurant visits) and the long-term Brexit impact is unknown; it is, however, already affecting the availability of skilled European restaurant staff.

"In addition, food costs are currently on the increase and there is some evidence of reducing consumer expenditure."

However, despite these challenges, he said he remained confident the group's businesses have "significant growth potential" across the UK.

"The UK dining out market continues to grow and as a nimble and agile operator with great restaurant brands we are confident of another year of good progress."