Overview of the hospitality and events sector in the UK

Dan Mason, Senior editor
January, 2017

The hospitality and event management sector is popular for casual and entry-level work, but graduates also have the chance to build a successful long-term career

What areas can I work in?

Hospitality jobs are available in:

  • contract catering/food service management
  • hotels
  • leisure attractions
  • pubs, bars and nightclubs
  • restaurants and coffee shops
  • self-catering and holiday centres.

Meanwhile, opportunities to work in events include:

  • conference management
  • corporate days out and product launches
  • entertainment and sporting events
  • exhibition management
  • fundraising
  • weddings and parties.

Companies in the hospitality sector also recruit graduates to a range of head office functions such as finance, IT, human resources (HR), customer services, sales and marketing, property and legal, and general management.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see hospitality jobs.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Examples of companies operating in the hospitality industry include:

  • Compass Group (contract catering)
  • Greene King (pubs)
  • Hilton Hotels and Resorts
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
  • Marriott International
  • Merlin Entertainments (includes Legoland and Alton Towers Resort)
  • Mitchells & Butlers (pubs and restaurants)
  • Sodexo (contract catering and event management)
  • The Deltic Group (nightclubs)
  • Travelodge
  • Wetherspoons
  • Whitbread (include Costa Coffee and Premier Inn).

However, the majority of UK hotels and restaurants are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and are independently owned. Most pubs and bars are small businesses, employing fewer than 10 people.

Event management companies include:

  • Clarion Event
  • Live Nation Entertainment (concert venues)
  • London Business Conferences
  • Reed Exhibitions
  • Theme Traders (events, corporate days out, parties).

You could work for an event management company, a venue (such as the O2 Arena) or an event supplier. Large companies, for example hotel chains and contract caterers, also recruit event managers. Some large charities have fundraising roles that may include event planning.

There are many opportunities for self-employment, such as running a pub or bar as part of a franchise, opening your own restaurant, or freelance work in the events industry.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the hospitality and event management sector can expect:

  • opportunities to work throughout the UK or overseas
  • salaries to be dependent on the organisation you work for
  • to work unsociable hours, including evenings and weekends
  • performance-related pay, commission and bonuses in some event management roles.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the hospitality and events sector?

Hospitality is the fourth largest employer in the UK, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA), with 4.49 million people working in the sector.

Over the last five years, 331,000 new jobs have been created and the BHA says another 100,000 will be delivered by the end of this decade. More than a third of employees are under the age of 25.

Yet the industry continues to suffer from a skills shortage and requires 100,000 additional skilled workers by 2020. Managers and chefs are the most in-demand roles.

However, Brexit is the most pressing issue on the horizon. In a report on the implications of the country's decision to leave the European Union (EU), the BHA argues that 'the ability of the UK hospitality and tourism industry to host business travellers, events and conventions will be essential to the UK economy post-Brexit, as it seeks to position itself as a venue for business, hub for innovation and host for trade delegations'.

The consultation document, first published in November 2016, argues that the government must ensure the UK remains 'open for business' if the sector is to continue to be successful. It also notes that leaving the EU will make the recruitment and development of British workers a priority - currently 700,000 employees are from other EU countries.

Although best known for its entry-level jobs (for example in bars, restaurants and hotels), there are opportunities to progress and build a long-term career in hospitality.

'Around 80% of leaders in our industry achieved their executive, franchisee/ownership, chef and management positions by working their way up,' says the BHA.

Meanwhile, statistics collated by Eventbrite show that the UK event management industry sustains 570,000 full-time jobs across more than 25,000 businesses - including organisers, venues, production companies, suppliers, caterers and more.

From music festivals and agricultural shows to charity fundraisers and trade fairs, the event sector is worth £42.3billion to the UK economy.