“We need to give them a reason to love us”, Fred Sirieix told UKHospitality’s Summer Conference as he called for the industry to become a disruptor in a bid to tackle the staffing crisis.
The broadcaster and general manager of Galvin at Windows in the London Hilton Park Lane said the government had made it clear it would not come to the rescue of the industry and it was time to “challenge perceptions”.
He explained: “When the government said we are a low skilled industry it’s a statement of intent. They are saying we do not value you, we do not respect you, we do not love you.
“Are they going to invest in an industry they do not respect – it’s never going to happen. The disruption has to come from us first. We have to disrupt.”
Sirieix said this disruption needed to tackle education which he described as “20 or 30 years behind where it should be”, as well as communicating the value of careers of the industry, with a greater focus on front of house positions, and improving pay levels.
He told those gathered at the Hilton Bankside in London that he had trained for four years in France to become a waiter and added: “I’m the Maradona, you should see me, I can go through the whole England defence alone and score.”
Staffing was a major topic for this year’s conference which concluded with the Workforce 2030 panel featuring Holly Addison, head of digital travel and hospitality at Odgers Berndtson; Claire Clarke, group HR director of Casual Dining Group; Kathy Dyball, head of marketing at caterer.com and Harry Murray, chairman of Lucknam Park.
Murray told fellow operators: “We have to treat our staff like we treat our customers we have to convince parents, teachers, career teachers, that this is a good industry to work in.”
Both Dyball and Addison stressed that employers needed to embrace diverse workforces, including groups they may not have previously considered such as ex-offenders, those with disabilities and older workers.
All agreed that with the outcome of Brexit still no clearer, staffing was an area employers could not afford to ignore. Murray added: “I think Brexit was a wake up call for the hospitality industry in this country. We have to convince those parents, teachers and career teachers that we have structured training, we need to explain that this is the one industry where you can go from a kitchen porter to a general manager and we have many examples of that.”