Nearly all (96%) of the UK's hospitality managers are experiencing shortages in either front or back of house roles, with nearly three quarters (73%) facing a lack of staff in both areas.
The latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth found that one in six (16%) hospitality jobs currently lie vacant.
Fewer than one in five (18%) hospitality leaders feel confident about their recruitment and retention over the next 12 months - down from 67% who felt confident during the last round of research only three months ago.
Three in five (59%) are now anticipate hiring staff at a greater rate than usual this year - up by 15% compared to the last survey.
Labour has been further hit by absences, with leaders reporting that an average of 6% of staff are currently in isolation and unable to work.
Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food. “These figures illustrate the full scale of hospitality’s recruitment and retention crisis.
“Thousands of businesses are now critically short of staff, while many of those who have sufficient labour face a fight to keep hold of it.
“Gaps at front and back of house and fast-rising wage costs threaten to derail the industry’s recovery, and sustained, targeted government support is now urgently needed to tackle the problem.
The shortage of staff is prompting hospitality leaders to step up efforts to attract and keep hold of staff.
Three quarters say they have offered better pay (76%) and stepped up their levels of communication (75%) as part of their retention strategies, while two thirds have tried to support staff more with their wellbeing and mental health (66%).
The use of pay as a retention tool is rapidly inflating wage bills across the hospitality sector, which already faces mounting food, drink, supply and utility costs.
Leaders who have increased pay have done so by an average of 11% for current staff, and by 13% for newly hired team members.
Sebastien Sepierre, managing director, Fourth, said: “Hospitality is nothing without people and the sector is in a desperate battle to find the staff it needs to rebuild after a devastating 18 months.
"With the right business landscape, hospitality has the potential to drive the UK’s economic recovery.
“But the current operational environment is extremely tough and these results lay bare the workforce challenges senior leaders must solve, especially in light of the key festive trading period on the horizon.”