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letters

01 January 2000
letters

competition will survive grades unity

I feel it is necessary to clarify some of the points made by Bill Barber in his Viewpoint (Caterer, 25 June, page 28) since they are inaccurate and may lead to confusion for your readers.

The harmonised quality standards for hotels and guest accommodation agreed between the AA and RAC in Great Britain and the English Tourist Board in England came out of negotiations between all three bodies over the past two-and-a-half years.

In addition, our common priorities in the formulation of these new quality standards are not facilities over quality as stated in the article, but facilities and quality, which are considered to be equally important.

This collaboration has been encouraged by the Government and the hospitality industry, and had the objective of harmonising inspection, classification and grading schemes between the motoring organisations and the national tourist boards. The purpose was to provide guests visiting hotels and other serviced accommodation with a consistent and easily understood approach to rating the quality of such accommodation. The aim was to eliminate any confusion for visitors caused by the conflicting grading systems being operated by the different organisations. The AA has always fully supported this goal.

It should be stressed that this united approach is for the inspection operation only, and each organisation will continue to employ its own independent inspection force to conduct the inspections. The three organisations have not formed a united inspection force but have merely harmonised their inspection criteria; thus the same rating will be given to an establishment regardless of which organisation conducts the inspection. It is believed that this approach will avoid confusion for the consumer when choosing rated accommodation.

This does not affect the independent promotion and marketing of the respective schemes by each organisation. Therefore, in response to Mr Barber's comments about guidebooks, booking schemes and joint marketing, I would like to confirm that the AA will continue to operate independent guidebooks, its own booking service, marketing and promotional opportunities in the interests of both the customer and the hotel industry.

The quality standard rating for hotels and guest accommodation is the only common piece of information that will be shared and promoted in the respective guidebooks.

Albert Hampson

Business manager,

AA Hotel Services,

Basingstoke,

Hampshire.

where is the help from ‘industry'?

With the ever-decreasing public purse, educational establishments must now look more and more to industry for funding. North Lincolnshire College is situated in the beautiful and historic city of Lincoln. The college has embarked on a £2m conversion of the Grade II-listed Sessions House. The new facility is to provide training kitchens and a Courthouse Restaurant to reflect the character of this historic building.

Despite considerable efforts, very little by way of kitchen equipment has been forthcoming from "the industry".

So often the cry goes up from captains of the catering industry that the students coming out of colleges lack the necessary skills, and yet "the industry" does not seem prepared to put its money where its mouth is and support an important project such as this.

Chris Thurlow

Tourism & catering section manager,

North Lincolnshire College,

Lincoln.

better funding for existing courses

The previous institution in which I worked was established to be independent - funded by business and industry. It succeeds admirably in this aim, but I can assure John Roberts (Caterer, 11 June, page 26) that it is no easier to operate in this environment than it is to deal with the "complexities of further education funding" that he mentions.

Where sponsorship and support from industry was not forthcoming, or was spasmodic, students were in the position of having to fund their own studies. This is hardly likely to extend or encourage education for all, and, until employers are willing to support training in a committed, ongoing way, it will remain just an ideal.

I note Mr Roberts's estimate of £8.25m to establish 15 centres nationally, and my only response would be - WHY? There is a large network of colleges across the country with excellent facilities. In them you will find excellent staff, with good hotel and catering experience, who are "trained trainers". Should all this expertise and equipment go to waste while £8.25m is spent duplicating them?

Surely a cheaper and more realistic answer is that, as an industry, we have to somehow persuade the Government to fund the existing resources so that they can provide the hours of training so desperately needed by the industry. I do not know of any lecturer who wishes to see his or her course hours cut - we are all very aware of the skills and knowledge that potential employees need. We just need the funding to deliver them effectively.

Sylvia Brunner

Section leader, hospitality & catering,

Farnborough College of Technology,

Hampshire.

consultants must deliver results

Following the long-awaited confirmation of our code of conduct (Caterer, 25 June, page 62), I believe the words "rogue consultants" could be extended to include more than just those who operate in the area of contract catering.

Consultantcy is also plagued with so-called "rogues". Those who have no professional indemnity insurance and/or a good track record should not be employed by clients.

If we, as a medium-sized practice operating in five countries, say to clients that savings can be engendered, then that is what MUST happen - or we lose a percentage of the fee we expect, based on a rule of compensation to the client.

Clients should certainly demand results proposed by consultants before parting with the total fee charged.

RA CROFT

FDS Associates,

Swinford,

Leicestershire.

spiteful call from spurned employer

I recently had an interview for a sous chef's position in a prolific award-winning hotel.

I realised that this opportunity wasn't for me, so I informed the agency and left it at that.

Two weeks passed and I thought nothing of it until, out of spite (I can only assume), the prospective employer phoned my current boss just to let him know that I'd been for an interview with him.

Only in the catering industry could this malicious behaviour happen.

How is the trade to progress when people at the top behave in this manner?

Name and address withheld

perks don't reach the front line

For six years now I have been a chef in contract catering. On a first-time visit to head office a little while back, my eyes were opened. It was then that I knew I should have either changed direction some time back or have studied to be an accountant like my mother said I should.

What I saw was an empire run by public relations, accounting, IT, personnel and sales people. I know that these people are part of the modern catering industry - what shocked me was the difference in rewards. Salaries of £30,000 and upwards, bonus payments, expense accounts, company cars, mobile phones, laptop computers, hotel accommodation, training seminars, company dinners, golf weekends and spacious offices.

My heart bleeds for the core product staff (catering staff) within their units.

We would love to share in some of these perks. Yes, head office staff are very important, but so are we.

name withheld

Upminster,

Essex.

school's golden anniversary

The School of Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure, Thames Valley University, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary on Thursday 21 January 1999. It will also be celebrating the 10th year of association with the Society of Stars, a charity committed to help sponsor specialist facilities within the school for people with physical disabilities. The joint occasion is to be marked by a four-course dinner including wines to be held at Claridge's at a cost of £60 per head.

Tickets are obtainable from Sally Crosbie at TVU, St Mary's Road, Ealing, London W5 5RF and, as numbers are strictly limited, early application is advised.

Victor Ceserani

President,

School Graduates Association.

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