Should we Stay or Should we Go?

Not really one to openly discuss politics (mainly because, and happy to admit this, that I don’t understand most of it!), however the upcoming EU referendum is bound to have an effect on the Hospitality industry so I’ve had a look at some of the main issues.

Jobs

Anyone who works in or visits restaurants and hotels in the UK, can testify for the diverse workforce from across Europe and the world. This would not cause dramatic repercussions as such for businesses but some changes to contracts and HR procedures might be considered to adapt to new or tweaked laws. However were UK to leave the EU, they could still work with EU employment law, as the Swiss do. A Brexit would have more of an impact on individuals from overseas working in the hospitality industry; mainly, that obtaining work permits from skilled workers in the EU would be considerably more complex, hence discouraging people to come over. One argument in the Brexit camp is the old adage of “more jobs for British people”, but considering the situation we are already in with significant skill shortages in kitchens, housekeeping and restaurants, this argument does not stand too strong. One would however hope that the lure of London and other major cities will continue to bring people in to the UK.

Suppliers

Contracts with suppliers may need reviewing in the case of Brexit. One of the benefits we have in the EU is restriction-free trade with suppliers, allowing us to bring in olives from Greece, croissants from France, Proscuitto from Italy (etc etc), allowing UK hospitality businesses to provide authentic experiences to guests. Losing this may mean renegotiating all these contracts, which being out of the EU might prove difficult. Likewise vice-versa, for us to export our products overseas would mean new and different agreements. 12% of hospitality professionals surveyed stated that rising food costs was their biggest fear about a possible Brexit.

Tourism

One sector that would undoubedtly benefit from a Brexit is the smaller, regional hotels and B&Bs. A Brexit is expected to see a 20% drop in the value of the pound, and so for those who often opt for low-cost holidays to Europe might lean towards a staycation instead, hence keeping their money within the UK economy, which can only be a good thing. Tourism into the UK could be affected, as restrictions on VISAs and travel make free-flowing of tourists more difficult. In fact a Caterer survey found that for 21% of people in hospitality, the main concern is a fall in visitor numbers. One number quoted is that 1/3 of potential tourists from Spain, Italy and Germany, and 1/4 from France, would be less likely to visit the UK if we Brexit, amid fears that quite simply a holiday in the UK would become more expensive and less value for money.

Overall– a vote to Remain means that hospitality businesses would save money and time by not needing to change contracts and procedures, and would continue to benefit from skilled people from overseas coming into our restaurants and hotels to plug skill gaps. A vote to Leave means a rise in domestic tourism and arguably more opportunities for British staff, although whether that actually fills the skill shortage is a different question.

A survey conducted in May by the IoH suggested that most Hospitality managers are voting to remain (52.4%) , with 36.3% voting leave, and 11.3% as yet undecided. Come June 23rd, it will be interesting to see what way the country goes, and what effects this has on our industry.

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Credit to RetailWeek.com for the photo

‘The Diego Masciaga Way’- Lessons from the Master of Customer Service

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”- Mahatma Gandhi

One of the best hospitality/service books I’ve read, and just finished, is ‘The Diego Masciaga Way’. Diego Masciaga is the long-standing Director of the celebrated 3-Michelin star Waterside Inn, and this book by Chris Parker is a fascinating insight into the thoughts and principles of a man clearly at the top of his profession.

I won’t spoil the surprises for those interested in reading it, but the main principles of service are highlighted in the final chapter, based around; Recruitment; Training; Leadership; Service Delivery; Longevity and Consistency.

An inspirational read- can highly recommend!

Masciaga

Tim Bacon

2016 has so far been an ‘annus horribilis’ for the great and the good of the entertainment and music industry, starting with the death of David Bowie in January, and more recently those of Victoria Wood and Prince. The hospitality industry has suffered a major blow today, with the tragic loss of Tim Bacon, the CEO of Living Ventures, at the age of 52.

The Living Ventures company operates 34 restaurants across the UK, and in 2013 the company secured 9th in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies. I first came across Tim Bacon’s work during a programme on the BBC in 2013, Restaurant Wars, which showed the opening of Manchester House, led by Bacon, in competition with another new restaurant opening. It showed incredible passion, drive and dedication to the business, and really showed how a strong vision behind a concept can make something special.Only last month, Tim Bacon was named as number 10 in Restaurant Magazine’s Power List in the ‘Boardroom’ section.

In what is undoubtedly a tragic loss, his entrepreneurship, work and legacy to the UK Hospitality Industry shall live on.

Tim Bacon

My Kitchen Playlist

Whether it’s at work before a busy service, or at home when I’m relaxing with a bottle of wine, there’s some tunes that I love to listen to that either get me in ‘the zone’ for a busy day, or inspire me to cook something tasty.

Completely unashamed by any of my choices here, and even less so to say that I will sing along to most of these (at home of course…).

Enjoy!

Kitchen playlist

 

March-ing on into Spring

So March has been busy. Work keeping me (very) entertained, but with a few days off now for Easter, there’s a bit of spare time to write another blog post.  I’ve realised I’ve actually eaten and drunk very well this month, so here’s a summary of some new discoveries and some old favourites…

02.03.16

Life Goddess Greek Cafe; authentic, Greek Cafe and Deli situated in Central London near Holborn. Ate a lovely classic Moussaka. Can highly recommend for a quick, healthy, tasty lunch.

Bageriet; Swedish Cafe in Covent Garden. A very small little place, but charming inside, only room for maybe 5-6 people but delicious cakes and great coffee

Paternoster Chop House; A good dining venue in the City if you like steaks and meat. I just drank on this occasion, and had a fantastic gin and tonic with Williams Chase Gin, a fantastic British produce, made in Hereford. Incidentally I visited their distillery back in August and it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance.

05.03.16

Old Parsonage Hotel; an old favourite of mine from my Oxford days, the restaurant within the Old Parsonage is part of the Mogford Collection (also Quod Brasserie & Gee’s Restaurant), but the Parsonage is arguably now the top of the three in terms of food. Very efficient service, good selection on the menu, and well-executed food. I ate pigeon salad to start, rabbit and leek pie for main and a lovely fresh lemon tart for dessert. Well worth a visit if ever in Oxford. Also open for Afternoon Tea.

08.03.16

Back in Oxford again, but this time slightly off-piste. I came back to my alma-mater Brookes Restaurant at Oxford Brookes University, for a dinner hosted by final-year students as part of their Events module. The dinner was themed, ‘A Match Made in Britain’, with three courses from separate parts of the UK (Scottish Salmon three ways; Welsh Rump of Lamb; English Bakewell Tart) plus a matching drinks menu of a Cotswold Cider, English Red wine, and Sloe Gin. Food was outstanding, some great flavours, and a great sense of pride for the team that put the event on, especially as I remember my own event only too vividly!

13.03.16

I’m very glad that amongst my close friends and family are some fellow food snobs, one of whom invited me down to South London of a Sunday for craft beers, meats and cheeses. Starting off at Westow House, a pub that specialises in fantastic craft ales from the nearby Gipsy Hill Brewery, we then visited a fantastic shop, Good Taste, selling meats and cheese. A great selection, as well of course some great beers and interesting wine, and will certainly be worth another visit.

15.03.16

Princi. An Italian all-day dining venue on Wardour Street in Soho. Open for breakfast through to dinner, with a fantastic display of fresh salads, cakes, pizza and pasta dishes, this makes a great, albeit slightly pricy, lunch venue.

21.03.16

New Street Wine Shop. Hidden away by Liverpool Street Station, part of the D&D Group, NSWS is a fantastic venue, whether for a light glass of an evening, a bite to eat, or a couple of bottles to take away for the weekend. I took a glass of Barolo, a plate of scotch eggs and sausage rolls, and a bottle of Montepulciano to take away for Easter lunch.

Happy Easter!

From Pot-wash to Manager, with a little help along the way…

Everybody with half a foot on the career ladder will have had a career break, the moment where they got their first job, or that eureka moment where they decided to enter into a particular sector or industry. A recent visit at work from David Terrell, the man who gave me my first chance, inspired this latest blog post!

In 2008, whilst looking for work experience post-GCSEs, I saw an article in Caterer Magazine about a recently renovated hotel in Surrey, close to home. A very tentative email later, and the Head Chef invited me in for a chat. An hour or so after meeting him and I was buying chef shoes to start a job as a part-time pot-wash for the summer. Throughout this summer, and consequently the next year too, I worked just a few shifts a week, a couple midweek, plus Saturday evening and Sunday breakfasts, on the pot-wash but also some basic veg preperation and food stock takes. Of course at the time at the age of 16, I couldn’t drive, so getting to work about 40 mins drive away was an issue I had to resolve. With David’s support and commitment to me, I would catch two trains from home, and then David would pick me up and drive me onto work, and on the few occasions when he was off, the Sous Chef would be sent to get me instead! Likewise on the way home after work, despite it being out of his way, David would drop me off at the station so I could catch the train home. And this would continue every time. It’s this kind of support that didn’t have to be offered but David wanted to help so he did. He also extended this support to my parents, who soon adopted The Pride as their favourite local restaurant! Both summers gave me invaluable experience and a first taste of what the Hospitality/Restaurant industry was like. And of course what this also did was give me some proper work experience to put on the CV when I started applying for university. It’s fantastic now that David and I still keep in touch, and as this post started, it’s a pleasure to be able to now serve David and his wife when they came to visit last week.

David was/is clearly my first mentor, the first person from the industry who I have been able to go to for advice and support. I have been privileged enough in my career so far to have had several mentors and people I can rely on for support. The Oxford School of Hospitality Management, where I studied for 4 years, runs a fabulous mentoring scheme, in which final-year students mentor a first-year student (with experiences of the course, placements, career choices) and get a mentor in the form of a senior leader or manager from the industry. My mentor was Marc Millon, a food, wine and travel writer, who I first met in 2013 on a gastronomy field trip down to Devon. Marc provided me (and still does!) with great advice and insights into the industry, and of course career advice at a crucial time in life. We built up a great rapport together, and I would now consider us as good friends (I hope vice-versa too!). The time at uni has also allowed me to meet some amazing, influential people, and many of the staff and lecturers I still keep in regular contact with on both a formal and casual basis.

The point of this really, is that everybody probably has a mentor in some form, and the benefits are countless. Whether it’s that first Head Chef who gives you work experience and arranges lifts for you to get to work, or that person who can take you out for a glass of wine and some career advice, or whoever, it is important that in any industry, but especially one that can be as tough as hospitality, we all have a mentor/mentors that we can go to. I am lucky that through David and Marc, to name but two, I have a source of advice and support whenever I need it. And one day, I hope to also be able to give back to people with my own experiences and advice.

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