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Don't waste this pool of experience

22 February 2007
Don't waste this pool of experience

By focusing too much on a youthful image the industry risks wasting a source of knowledge and talent, says consultant Dudley Seale

When I started in the hospitality industry, businesses were run by people with knowledge and years of experience. Today they are run by accountants. I agree with Grant Hearn when he said in Caterer (1 February) that we need not be servile but we do need to offer a competent service.

I have spent all my life in the trade, from wash-up after school to group managing director. In all that time, training and working was always about teamwork.

And the skills that need to be taught today are still the same: how to empower staff, talk, think, praise, understand, share the good and the bad, and how to solve problems together.

In our low-wage trade we have to offer team spirit. I have always told managers that the most important person in your unit is the cleaner. Managers are easy to find, but a good cleaner is like gold.

I am now coming up to 60. I have seen and done every job in our business. Yet, despite all my experience, no one wants to employ me.

Young staff can learn so much from a mentor from someone with no interest in taking their job who is there just to give help and advice. In these days of pushing for every penny of profit, mentors can even help increase the bottom line.

In the late 1960s everyone trained as grill chefs because the jobs were with Berni Inns and the London Steak House group. Not everyone will be a multi-Michelin-starred chef like Gordon Ramsay, which is why training needs to be geared to the requirements of the trade at the time.

No matter who is in charge for the 2012 Olympics, training needs to be provided for the type of catering that's needed. You do not have to train people to be servile for them to enjoy giving customers service.

There are lots of older people with years of experience that human resources managers and companies do not see as part of their image. What a waste: just when we need to train new staff in service, the people with the very experience to do the job are not required.

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