David McHattie is chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Hospitality, which is offering Caterer readers a last chance to get six tickets for a five-day hospitality seminar run by the Disney Institute in London next month. He spoke to Janie Stamford.
Caterer What's the Disney Institute all about?
David McHattie The Disney Institute is the professional development and external training arm of the Walt Disney Company. I first learnt about it some years ago on a trip organised by Caterer. It trains professionals from other companies on how to do business according to the Disney model, through seminars, workshops and presentations. It also devises programs for other industries, including hospitality.
Caterer Tell us more about the five-day seminar.
DM It takes place at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel, with 1,000 delegates from across the hospitality industry attending three Keys to Excellence courses in leadership, quality and business. Tickets were given to industry partners, colleges and through the National Skills Academy for Hospitality website, but the tickets through Caterer are the last ones.
Caterer What makes Disney's take on training relevant to hospitality?
DM Disney runs a range of services, it's not just about the rides. You eat and drink there, you're greeted there - the whole experience covers customer service. They have been doing it very well for a very long time and applying it to hospitality is very easy. It's dangerous to think you can only learn from businesses like your own. We need to learn from the very best, whatever the sector and wherever they are in the world. Customer service is critical, but we can always do better, and Disney encapsulates what the academy is trying to do.
Caterer You've been chief executive of the academy for nearly a year now. How have you found the role?
DM It has been challenging but it has also been great fun. As with any start-up, it's a challenge to put together a company as a legal entity but everyone has been really supportive. There's no shortage of things to do but we've a great collection of likeminded, passionate people. One of the challenges is that we're not selling a product but are trying to find tangible solutions for critical issues affecting the industry.
Caterer How important is it for operators to invest in training during the recession?
DM The only reason anyone has a business is because of the people. They look after the customers and the customers look after the sales and profits. You may not be able to be as extravagant with training in a recession but it's important to keep training and developing.
- The Disney Keys to Excellence program runs on 14-18 September at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel. Caterer readers have the chance to apply for six tickets to the event. Log on to our community website Table Talk at www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk for more details.