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when will we learn to help ourselves . . . ?

There is no doubt that some sectors of our beleaguered industry are, at last, seeing signs of recovery.

I have heard it said that the one good thing about the recession was that we would all learn a great deal from it.

But have lessons really been learned, or at the first sign of recovery is our industry going to slip back into its old, sometimes arrogant, ways?

Certainly some already have. During December, I rang a number of London’s better-known hostelries in an attempt to book a table. I was delighted that many were fully booked, but what did not delight me was the attitude of the people answering the telephone.

The old arrogance had returned. No apology, no regret that they could not help me, just a blunt “We are fully booked”.

Come on chaps, this recovery is still fragile – you may be full to bursting in December, but what about the dark days of January? How many customers will be put off trying your restaurant again if the person answering the telephone cannot be a little friendlier, a little more charitable, or just simply helpful?

Tony ElliottProprietor,The Greenway Hotel,Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

. . . and smarten up our practice

At the beginning of December I attended a final interview for a junior management position with a large hotel group. I was offered the position to start at the beginning of January, and contacted the hotel the following day and accepted. I also gave my month’s notice to my current employer.

A few days later I received a letter formally offering me the position, subject to references, which due to my good work record did not concern me.

I understood that I would be contacted at the end of December for my exact starting date. With three days of the month to go, I rang the hotel and left messages to be contacted.

On the last day of the month I received a letter stating that due to an internal reorganisation the offer was being withdrawn. I was left shocked and jobless!

Fortunately, I have a sympathetic employer who had not yet filled my position. This whole sorry tale has left me no worse off, and wiser for the experience, but the question I would like answered is this: has the present economic climate created bad business practice or does it provide a convenient excuse for those in positions of management responsibility to treat potential employees badly?

Name and address supplied.

is 1994 the year of conscience?

I was delighted to read Joe Hyam’s opinion on wages and staff “off days” (View from the Edge, 6 January). How right he is.

As a recruiter of staff I am often appalled at the exploitation tales that are revealed at interview and, like Mr Hyam, cannot understand how paying fair wages means employers go out of business.

Many of my colleagues in the contract catering sector have realised the importance of staff in their businesses and it is about time the rest of the hospitality industry followed suit.

With the closure of wages councils, I wonder what can be done to protect those who are treated unfairly, as there must be room for an equitable solution.

Perhaps 1994 will be the year of conscience for our industry, and it would be nice to be optimistic, but I fear the same topic will still be relevant in 1995.

Martin GudeHead of Catering & House Services,Manchester Metropolitan University,Manchester M15.

the right to expect a reply

I read Bob Gledhill’s comments (View from the North, 23 December) with anger and frustration.

When I learnt that my job was to be made redundant, I obtained a mailing list of 150 catering-related companies within London and the Home Counties.

I sent my CV and covering letter to all of these companies and received just 45 replies.

I was particularly annoyed with the treatment I received from one national restaurant chain. I attended a half day selection interview in January 1993, but since then I have heard nothing.

If someone can take time to apply for a post, the very least we should do as responsible managers is to reply.

On a happier note, my employer was able to place me in another suitable position, for which I am grateful.

Martyn Westcott-WrefordEynsford,Kent.

help to solve the mystery menu

I am trying to translate an old menu from Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, from the late 1800s and am having difficulty with the following dishes: Cräme Sarah Bernhardt; Barbue Grimaldi; and Soufflé Esterhazy.

Does anyone recognise them?

Jean-Pierre BeraudHead of Catering,Chatsworth,Bakewell,Derbyshire.

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