Brigad, the platform that connects skilled self-employed hospitality professionals looking for short-term rewarding work with leading hospitality businesses, has raised a €33m Series B round, led by Balderton Capital, to accelerate its growth in the hospitality sector across Europe.
Wendel Group, Serena Capital and Square Capital also joined in the round, which sees Brigad’s total fundraising top €50m (£45m).
Brigad is the online talent platform that puts skilled and experienced chefs, waiters, bartenders and front of house staff in control of their working lives enabling them to build a professional freelance career, with missions at the best hospitality businesses across eight European cities including Paris, London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Since the start of the global pandemic in 2020, hospitality businesses in the UK and France have suffered forced shutdowns, plunging revenues and a huge shortage of talent. The casualisation of the industry is a fact that can not be reversed but has caused significant problems for establishments looking to deliver a polished, professional and enjoyable service to customers.
Founded in 2016, Brigad is a solution to the changing world of work in which the desire to be freelance or self-employed is penetrating more industries and re-shaping the hospitality industry in particular. Increasingly talented professionals are rejecting the long and unsociable hours hospitality careers have required and want to have more flexibility and balance in their lives. This is a challenge for leading hotel and restaurant marques, as well as smaller independent businesses, that still require skilled and passionate people for temporary roles.
Brigad solves this problem by enabling talents to work freelance in the industry that they love, while regaining control over their own schedule, with better pay and prospects. Businesses like the fact that there is an army of skilled, motivated talent available to them – without any agency acting as a middle man. Evidence of the platform’s success is a 170% increase in missions posted from 2021 to 2022.
Through Brigad’s platform, hospitality businesses post missions on the platform with a date and time. The mission is instantly put forward to the available, skilled and verified talents across the Brigad community. Talents can then accept the roles that fit their schedule or objectives. In this way, some 80% of missions are accepted by qualified professionals within two hours.
Talents can choose to work for the same establishments or build a network of contacts, to ensure a reliable source of work and income built around their lives and commitments. To keep the quality and reliability of Brigad’s talent community high, the company has a strict vetting process, with only 13% of those who apply to work through the platform accepted. Seven in 10 Brigad users say that they would have left the industry if they had not found the platform, on which more than 15,000 people and 10,000 businesses are now regular users.
The platform allows hospitality businesses to engage professionals for one or more missions, for that day or for weeks or months ahead. Working in a restaurant kitchen takes years of training and is a highly skilled role. Since Brigad was launched, chefs and other hospitality professionals have been able to remain in the industry they love because they have been able to regain control of their lives. Brigad gives them access to roles at leading establishments so that they can still follow their vocation, while earning a fair and flexible income.
Connecting freelance professionals
Leading hotels and restaurants that use Brigad include the Berkeley Hotel in London, The Ritz, Isabel Mayfair, Mosaic Pubs, Sketch, Nobu, Big Mamma, Urban Pubs & Bars, City Pub Group, The Breakfast Club, Burger & Lobster, Pachamama, Coya, The Maine, Star Hotels, W London Hotel and Bill’s Restaurants, as well as many smaller independent restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes. In the UK, the platform operates in London, Manchester and Birmingham and will expand into other major UK cities in the next 18 months.
The funding round will accelerate this expansion, helping more hospitality businesses to solve their staffing problems. Brigad plans to offer more tools and events through the platform to the communities it serves, becoming an essential tool for management teams wanting to manage their staffing and payroll administration in one place.
Co-founder and CEO Florent Malbranche said: ‘The labour market has experienced profound changes in the last two to three years and the hospitality industry is living with the fallout. We can’t afford to lose a generation of skilled hospitality industry staff and Brigad’s platform means we don’t have to.
‘Brigad’s mission is to make work attractive and accessible to all and that means we respect and value the professional talent on our platform, providing them with missions that suit their skills and higher rates of pay. Working in hospitality is a career and the best establishments – whether family owned or global brands – want highly skilled talent on their teams ensuring their own high standards are upheld, their customers are happy and return, and long-term their businesses are successful and sustainable.’
David Thevenon, Partner at Balderton Capital added: ‘We are delighted to be supporting this team and their vision for the future of work. 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. We look forward to the journey ahead.’
Brigad talent and Head Chef, Wolfe Conyngham said: “I used to work crazy hours. I was always feeling burnt out and now that I have the choice, I have a balanced work life. I get to take my kids to school in the morning! This was never the case before.”
A spokesperson for the Berkeley Hotel said: “Brigad is very adaptable! The professionals are skilled, active and reliable, and the app is so simple to use!”
Hospitality in crisis
Staff shortages in the UK hospitality industry reached critical levels in 2022, causing almost half of all operators to cut trading hours or capacity in response, costing the industry £21 billion in lost revenue. A joint survey by the UK’s trade bodies for the hospitality industry UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and the British Beer and Pub Association, found that staff shortages are forcing one in three businesses in the sector to close “one or more days a week”.
Office for National Statistics figures in 2022 showed that there were a record 174,000 vacancies in the industry although figures from UK Hospitality put the figure even higher at 400,000. 43% of UK businesses reported in 2022 that they were operating with fewer staff than needed – a problem that is repeated in other European countries. In the UK, hospitality is the third largest private sector employer, twice the size of financial services and creating £130 billion of economic activity while generating £39 billion in tax revenues.