There are high and lows in all areas of the hospitality sector, but there’s no point getting worked up about it, says Peter Hancock
My resolution for 2018 is to avoid all unnecessary discussion of politics, religion or gender. This isn’t for selfless reasons; rather it is to escape censure and to try to stay friends with people whose views may not precisely mirror my own. If I have learned anything from the fantastic hoteliers I work for in Pride of Britain, it is that courtesy costs nothing, and that you don’t have to totally agree with another person’s opinions to enjoy their company – though doing so obviously has its benefits.
And my goodness, what a lot of opinions there are. A cursory glance at Twitter reveals, depending upon whom you follow, reactions to world events ranging from mild panic to murderous outrage. The great Spectator columnist Rory Sutherland once said that all the trillions of words swilling around the ether on social media can be summarised as “look at me”, “isn’t it terrible” and “get stuffed”. I cleaned up that last one for The Caterer readers, by the way.
I think he’s right. I have noticed that a great deal of the comment from the hospitality industry in particular falls into the “isn’t it terrible” category. Much of this discourse is simply bemoaning things outside of our control – an exercise so pointless that it’s on a par with complaining about a lack of daylight after 6pm or the plummeting temperatures that accompany the onset of a British winter.
Some things may indeed be terrible, but if it’s impossible to change them, then let’s focus on what we can do to mitigate their effects, such as inventing electric lights and producing warm clothes, rather than wasting energy getting cross about them.
The same applies to any of the myriad challenges our industry has been tested with: labour shortages, recessions, extortionate commissions, unfair TripAdvisor reviews, rising business rates, fickle guests. If your business has survived through these crises, you have clearly found your own solutions, perhaps by simply doing things better than your competitors. I have noticed that successful operators moan very little in comparison to their less fortunate counterparts, preferring to channel their energy into finding ways around problems. A splendid example can be seen at the Stafford in London, where general manager Stuart Procter is proud to have several people in his front of house team earning well above £40,000. Staff retention is high and customers appreciate being recognised year after year – a phenomenon replicated at many of the places I am lucky enough to visit.
No doubt the upcoming year will bring even more troubles. For some they will spell bankruptcy or redundancy… or worse. Even in good times the failure rate for standalone restaurants is shocking and luxury hotels have monstrous appetites for reinvestment. But for most of this magazine’s readers, I suspect each challenge will spark a new idea that keeps them ahead of the game.
Good luck and best wishes from an admiring observer.