‘It’s catastrophic’: Italian restaurants in London struggle to find staff post-Brexit | Restaurants

Emanuela Rescia has lived in London for almost 10 years. She left her hometown of Naples when she was a teenager and became a waitress in England, bringing her expertise and love of Italian cuisine to her capital.

But the 27-year-old, like thousands of other Italians working in the UK hospitality industry, felt she had no choice but to leave and return to Europe following the latest post-Brexit rules. ing.

New Brexit-led regulations that came into force last week increased the minimum salary threshold for skilled work visas from £26,000 to £38,700, far more than many restaurant workers earn. According to job site Glassdoor, the average wage for waitstaff in London in 2024 will be £28,000.

Last week, the Italian press lamented the end of a rite of passage for young Italians who will no longer be able to obtain visas to work as waiters in London.Mainichi Shimbun Corriere della SeraAntonio Polito writes, “Any young Italian with initiative, a work ethic, and a sense of curiosity can say, “I’m going to London” at least once.”

Lessia, who has worked at Ciao Bella restaurant in Bloomsbury since 1983, said: “We are very stressed and under pressure in this country right now. Before Brexit… we were free. did.

“If I left here, I would be very lonely. I would miss my family if I left Italy, but London has become my second home and I bought a house here. For me, leaving here is… It’s very painful.”

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An authentic Italian restaurant “needs cooks and waiters who understand food and wine,” says Ciao Bella’s owner. Photo: Caiaimage/Chris Ryan/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rescia’s husband has already moved to Spain in search of work opportunities as the couple believe the cost of living in the UK is too high.

Praxi Locatelli, who runs Locanda Locatelli in central London’s Marylebone with her husband, Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli, said that before Brexit, it was difficult to find Italian chefs and wait staff. He said there were no problems.

But in recent years, she has noticed a shortage of Italian staff. “It was a real disaster,” she said. “We have been open for 22 years and have had many of the same staff members for a long time. There is.”

Reccia’s boss, Ciao Bella owner Patrizia Polano, took over the restaurant with her late husband in 1999. She said this is the first time in her 25 years that she has faced such a shortage of Italian staff. “I have staff who have been with me for eight years and now they want to leave.” Even though she earns a good wage, she believes the cost of living in the UK is too high. She feels, she added. “I completely understand that. If they leave, I don’t know how long I can continue. [with the business]”

Mr. Polano offered employees higher wages in hopes of encouraging them to stay. We also employ non-Italian staff, who are expected to know about Italian food and culture. “When you run an Italian restaurant, you need cooks and waiters who understand food and wine,” she said. “This is an authentic Italian place. Customers expect an Italian feel and feel.”

Locatelli agrees: “Food is important in the Italian lifestyle. Young Italians come to the UK to work in cafes and restaurants and see it as a real art. It’s not just a job, it’s a career. People People come to the restaurant for Italian food, but some have commented that it’s strange that there aren’t as many Italian staff as they would expect. This is devastating for the industry.”