According to the Horesca Federation, there are now between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs available in the sector.
Staff shortages are one of the most pressing challenges confronting restaurants, cafés, and hotels at the moment.
On Saturday, our colleagues from RTL Radio invited the secretary general of the Horesca Federation, the director of the School of Hotel Management and Tourism, and a chef to discuss the challenges faced by the industry.
However, Horesca Secretary General François Koepp pointed out that staff shortages plague the sector throughout Europe.
Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, around 10% of workers left the sector, and only some of them have returned since then, according to Michel Lanners, the director of the Luxembourg School of Hotel Management and Tourism.
'Not enough respect' for professions in the hotel and catering industry
In response, many businesses try to improve working conditions, for instance by putting a greater emphasis on shift work, according to chef and teacher Jennifer Salbrecht.
Up until recently, "partial service," or daily working time interrupted by an unpaid break, was the industry standard, which was not very popular with employees, especially cross-border workers. Today, only 40% of restaurants still operate on partial service.
Koepp criticised Luxembourg's labour law. In his eyes, it should be possible to work more flexibly and possibly more than 40 hours per week. Koepp argued that there are workers in the sector who would like to work extra hours to raise their minimum wage.
But if they do so, they are no longer eligible for several social benefits. According to the secretary general of the Horesca Federation, this is "an error in the system," with Koepp stressing that "work, and not idleness, must be rewarded."
One of the biggest problems when it comes to recruitment is that there is "not enough respect" for professions in the hotel and catering industry. All three guests agreed that for this reason, events like Expogast are very important.
308 students are currently enrolled in the School of Hotel Management and Tourism (EHTL) in Diekirch. 100 of them are boarding school students. Every year, around 80 students receive a certificate or diploma at the school. Of course, this is not enough to mitigate the serious shortage in the sector.
EHTL Director Michel Lanners argued that it is not the school's responsibility to "save the sector." It is important to give young people a perspective and showcase the positive aspects of the profession, according to Lanners.
Specialty courses at the EHTL?
Countries all over the world have tried to improve the reputation of the sector by offering higher-level diplomas.
This is not the case in Luxembourg, Lanners said.
While the Vocational Aptitude Diploma (DAP), awarded after three years of training, provides a "good basis" for managing a kitchen, it should be possible to undergo further training or specialise oneself over the course of a career, according to Lanners.
Unfortunately, the EHTL is currently unable to provide these types of courses, the school's director stated.
Lanners agreed with Koepp that the Horesca Federation should approach the Ministry of Education and propose that specialty courses be introduced at the EHTL.
However, the two men disagreed when it came to career opportunities. The Horesca Secretary General stressed that unskilled workers can also "make it" in the sector, " from dishwasher to head chef," as Koepp put it. This statement did not sit well with the EHTL director, who instead encouraged young people to pursue an education.
The EHTL is going through a period of change, and it all started when the school changed its name. The name no longer mentions Alexis Heck and the school is now called École d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme du Luxembourg (Luxembourg School of Hotel Management and Tourism).
While the kitchen infrastructure at the school is "at a high level," Lanners pointed out that the programme of the current government coalition mentions a complete renovation of the building. This has not happened yet, and it could still be a while before it does.
The EHTL Director said that there are similar administrative challenges when it comes to Sanem Castle, where a second campus of the hotel management school is to be created.
The Horesca Secretary General welcomes an expansion of the hotel management school. In fact, Koepp thinks that the school should also receive a building in Luxembourg City to "better align the school with the needs of businesses."
Many restaurants still lack a 'creative' veggie option
Eating habits are changing all over the world, including in Luxembourg. People expect vegetarian options on restaurant menus, and Jennifer Salbrecht stressed that cooking without meat and fish is a top priority at the hotel management school. Salbrecht laments the fact that many restaurants still lack a "creative" vegetarian option.
Koepp responded that, in his eyes, the sector is in the process of responding to the demand.
A menu without any fish and meat is offered every day at the hotel management school.
The EHTL has even published a cookbook with vegetarian dishes, since food should not only be sustainably sourced and healthy, but it should also taste good.