In a world where, seemingly every day, we’re being told about the differences that are pulling people apart, hospitality is one of the very few industries that brings people together. Not just our customers, but our team members too.

Hospitality is all about delivering positive, memorable, human experiences. It unites us and reminds us that, despite what the doom-scrolling headlines might say, we all have a lot in common. And one of the things we have in common is we are all growing older. Growing older is an unavoidable fact of life.

That’s why, considering we work in such a wonderful industry that’s focused on bringing satisfaction and joy to the many customers who walk through our doors, it’s sad and frustrating that ageism is still so rife in the hospitality sector.

How does ageism in the recruitment process affect older candidates?

According to research carried out in 2021 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and Demos, more than a third of people in their 50s and 60s believed they are at a disadvantage in applying for jobs. 17% said they have been directly turned down for a job because of their age, and 29% were told they would be unlikely to get the role they’d applied for due to having “too much experience.” Other figures showed that people over 50 are twice as likely to fall into long-term unemployment once they lose their jobs, compared to younger workers.

At the same time as that research was published, experts at the Centre for Ageing Better said it was vital that employers tackled ageism at all stages of the recruitment process or risk missing out on the skills and experience that older workers bring. In an earlier report, Ageing Better also found out that employers could be failing in their duty to tackle age-bias, and employers and recruiters should ensure that all the tools used in the recruitment process are ‘age-blind’.

Of course, those reports and statistics are referring to age-bias across all areas of UK-wide recruitment, not just within the hospitality industry. In fact, this recent article in The Caterer had much more positive news, announcing that people over 50 now make up 34% of the hospitality workforce with more than 165,000 over-50’s joining the sector since the pandemic.

That’s all extremely encouraging to hear. However, as a hospitality recruiter who frequently sees older, highly capable hospitality candidates being turned down in favour of younger candidates who (to put it politely) often don’t share the rejected older person’s work ethics, we believe there’s a lot more that could still be done to address the hospitality age-bias. Yes, it’s fantastic that 34% of over-50s currently make up the hospitality workforce, but that’s only a third of the people who work in our industry. It’s high time that hospitality employers look beyond a candidate’s age and cv and focus instead on the other invaluable skills and experience that hiring older team members can bring.

The benefits of recruiting older candidates

Life experience: Even if an over-50s candidate hasn’t worked in the hospitality industry before, think about all the experience they’ve accumulated from previous roles in different industries, and the life experience they can share with younger team members. For example, if they’ve previously worked in customer-facing or customer advisory/call centre roles, they’ll have interpersonal and rapport-building talents they can instantly bring to this new job. Even if they’ve worked in a role that isn’t customer-facing, they will still have important satellite skills they can bring to your workplace. That’s why it’s essential to dig beneath the cv’s surface when you’re recruiting a new hospitality team member, whatever their age may be. Take time to find out about the candidate and uncover what isn’t on the page.

Customer experience: Older workers can bring much better customer experience skills compared to other age groups. They are also much more likely to stay calm under pressure, and they will have much more highly developed problem-solving abilities.

Flexibility: depending on their personal circumstances (which will be identified during the recruiting process), older candidates can often be much more flexible than younger workers, and – contrary to popular belief – they are sometimes much more adaptable to change (including changing shift patterns.) They can also be much more willing to learn and take on additional responsibilities.

Ambassadors for your business: Compared to employees aged between 22 and 49, over-50s employees often report higher job satisfaction and higher job-related wellbeing. That’s especially important in hospitality, not just because over-50s team members can act as role models to your younger workers and maybe even encourage them to consider hospitality as a long-term career, but also because many customers find older hospitality staff more welcoming and less intimidating to interact with.

Professionalism: Many younger workers think hospitality is a transient profession, “something to do until I find something else.” Older workers who enter the hospitality industry are highly unlikely to think that way. They’re here because they want to be here, and because they want to do the best they can for your business.

Finally, here are a few more statistics courtesy of Caterer.com Hospitality Hiring Insider:

  • Two in five (39%) hospitality businesses recognise that employees over the age of 50 can bring better customer experience skills to a role compared to other age groups.
  • 37% said over-50s workers have a stronger work ethic.
  • 35% said over-50s workers are better at problem solving.
  • 33% said over-50s have better business knowledge.
  • 31% said over-50s have the ability to remain calm in difficult situations.

In the constantly changing hospitality landscape, diversity and inclusion are more important than ever. That includes making space for hiring older employees and taking advantage of all the life-skills and experience they bring with them.

But it’s more than that. What this all comes down to is that the hospitality industry should be inclusive of everyone, regardless of age.

That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

The next time you’re recruiting for your perfect new team member, hire the person, not the cv. That’s what we can do for you, here at Prime. All you have to do is give us a call on 020 7580 4398 or email info@primerec.co.uk and we’ll do the rest.

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