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Brigad closes $33M to cook up staffing solutions for hospitality

Brigad, an online talent platform that connects hospitality businesses with hospitality professionals, has closed a €33 million (£29 million) Series B round. Led by Balderton Capital, with participation from Wendel Group, Serena Capital, and Square Capital, the round takes Brigad’s total fundraising to over €50 million.

Already operational in eight major European cities, including Paris and London, the funding will enable Brigad to expand the reach of their platform, helping more businesses, and workers, to keep the hospitality industry going. Brigad’s co-founder and CEO, Florent Malbranche, talked to TFN about how Brigad is a game changer for the hospitality sector.

A major sector struggling for staff

The hospitality sector is a crucial part of the UK economy, creating £130 billion of economic activity and £39 billion of tax revenue each year. But, despite this, is it in crisis. Reeling from the impact of Brexit and Covid, the Office of National Statistics suggest that there were 174,000 vacancies in the sector, while industry body UK Hospitality say this is closer to 400,000 in reality. Balderton Capital Partner, David Theveron, highlighted how Brigad addresses this, “For so many organisations, finding qualified workers to fill their rotas can be a total nightmare. Brigad solves this problem at scale, offering workers the flexibility and recognition they deserve.”

Malbranche is keen that the problem does not become a long-term crisis, “we cannot afford to lose a generation of skilled hospitality staff, and Brigad’s platform means we don’t have to.” Brigad exists, he says, “to make work attractive and accessible to all.”

A major problem with the industry is that it is highly skilled, but the demands of the career can be off-putting. “It can take up to four years to formally train as a chef,” Malbranche explains. This includes theoretical and practical education, before working their way up the kitchen hierarchy, from commis chef, to chef de pastie, sous chef and then head chef. “The biggest step is from chef de party to sous chef,” says Malbranche, “as you transform from someone who cooks in the kitchen to someone who manages the kitchen.”

And in addition to the skills and knowledge involved in cooking, from basic techniques to the chemistry of cooking, hospitality staff must also be aware of the regulatory requirements, like health and safety, and ensure they are confident with all the equipment they use. But working in high-pressure environments, often with antisocial hours, can take its toll. Leaving kitchen and front of house desperate for high-quality staff. And this is where Brigad steps in.

Offering a simple platform for both staff and employers, it offers flexibility for both. Workers can manage their lives, accepting work that fits around them, while kitchens can find highly skilled staff to fill the vacancies they have.

Putting both hospitality and their workers in control

Brigad puts both sites in control. “Businesses can specify the job, of course,” says Malbranche, “but also details like uniform, equipment and a custom description.” Meanwhile, potential staff can refine the jobs they see, “preferences can include distance from their address, the type of business, and, naturally, the job.” The site acts as a matchmaker, helping both sides find the ideal match of work. The roles, known as missions on the platform, can last anything from just a few hours to assist a busy shift, all the way up to a month to provide cover. Typically, they are a few days long, says Malbranche.

Businesses also benefit from having almost everything taken care of. “The mission will be sent to the most qualified professionals in the community; the contract, invoicing and payment is all taken care of, so the business can focus on their activities.”

The platform also helps address discrimination within the industry. It removes the need for the time-consuming process of collecting and reviewing CVs and applications. “Once the worker’s profile is validated after the vetting process, they can accept any mission they receive,” says Malbranche. “If they are the first to accept it, they get it. Talents on our platform have told us that Brigad has eradicated discrimination in their jobs.”

And businesses have been equally effusive. Names like The Ritz, the Berkeley, The Breakfast Club, Bill’s Restaurants and Nobu, are all among the client list. Feedback from them echoes comments made by the Berkeley Hotel, “the professionals are skilled, active, and reliable, and the app is so simple to use.”

Birgad will now be looking at expanding in the UK beyond their current offers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester. They are still assessing potential locations, but for Malbranche, apart from size, the key criteria will be the difference Brigad can make: “we’ll expand any city where we see an opportunity to help talents and businesses connect and live off their passions.”

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