Play it again, Sam 13 December 2019 Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
In this week's issue... Play it again, Sam Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
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Don't hide under the kitchen sink

01 January 2000
Don't hide under the kitchen sink

The siren sounds and everyone takes to their home-made shelters. The windows have been whitewashed, the bath filled with clean drinking water; supplies of non-perishable food have been stockpiled in the kitchen and a blast-safe hide-hole fashioned under the stairs. We're all right, Jack.

In the days when the prospect of nuclear holocaust was a real threat, it's said that people couldn't really imagine what was at stake. Had The Bomb actually dropped, it's likely that we would have taken to our bunkers and worried, not about the annihilation of all intelligent life on this planet, but about whether we had locked the car or fed the cat.

In a bizarre parallel, a similar phenomenon is happening in hospitality now.

Regular readers of the Caterer Letters Page will be familiar, maybe even weary, of the sustained wailing and gnashing of teeth that comes from employers trying to recruit skilled staff.

Whatever the causes of the skills shortage, however - whether it's the industry's image putting off college-leavers or the lack ofwell-funded training - the resulting problem is essentially the same. And, as everyone knows, it's a big problem. In fact, it's so big that many operators in the industry can't seem to address the major truth of it. They're either ignoring it completely or they are stillat the stage of worrying about locking the car or feeding the cat. In other words, they continue to take short-term measures in the hope that the problem will go away.

Two weeks ago, we read about the Indian restaurant community in the UK (Caterer, 18 June, page 54) and its struggle with the decline in family cooking traditions, which is raising calls to employ overseas chefs from the Indian subcontinent. Surely a short-term fix?

This week, we hear that the practice of providing loyalty bonus payments or "golden handcuffs" for staff is on the increase. Commendable in the short term, but it won't be long before all employers are forced to consider such a scheme, and then it will become like whitewashing your windows.

In the Manchester area, however, the director of one Chinese restaurant is taking a long-term view to his skills shortage. He is investing in a course at the local catering college to help train the staff that he requires.

What a brilliant idea. There should be much more of it going on.

As you've read before in this column, the answers (and there are many) to the skills shortage in hospitality lie with everyone involved in the industry. It is not only the educational establishments and the trade associations and the governmental bodies that are responsible for plugging the sink hole that is draining our industry of talent, it is us. It is the operator of restaurants in Manchester (for example). It is you. Everyone needs to be involved in the long view.

Or maybe you're too worried about locking the car or feeding the cat to consider the wider picture?



Caterer & Hotelkeeper

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