The industry must do more to encourage hospitality as a career choice, says Oisin Rogers, general manager of London pubs the Ship in Wandsworth and the Thatched House in Hammersmith
At a time when many careers are losing their professional status, I think now is the time for us, as an industry, to encourage people to view hospitality as a long-term, lucrative and rewarding career.
It is no longer unusual to look around a room of my peers and see graduates and drop-outs who fell into this profession. Many are geniuses but few planned to stay in hospitality. (I studied engineering in Dublin in the 1980s, which may have given me an understanding of how a beer pump works, but did little to prepare me for a career in which I am proud to say I have found some level of success.)
It is a curious fact that the Latin word hospes, the root of our word ‘hospitality', could equally mean stranger, guest or host. The Romans clearly saw little need to distinguish between the three. Paradoxical it may seem, but my underlying thought is that to be a good host you must welcome strangers and aim for them to leave you as friends. It is this most subtle of arts that that inspires loyalty, goodwill and translates hopefully to financial success in our business world.
An important bond The essential relationship between our staff and our guests is at the heart of what we in the hospitality sector are aiming to perfect. It is a bond that is never more important than in periods of uncertainty and slow growth. Particularly in such economic conditions, valuing, developing and training those who work front of house and helping them realise their full potential is absolutely key to success.
These are emotional transactions and it is vital that our staff understand how integral they are to building long-lasting relationships and recognise that this is where the greatest reward can be found.
The best businesses have the best front of house staff, and there is just as much competition for talent among restaurateurs and publicans as there is for customers. More than 2.5 million people are working in hospitality in the UK. With a perception that many of these jobs are poorly paid and lacking esteem, are we attracting the brightest and â¨the best?
We need to do much more to capitalise on the fact that in the current economy we offer competitive salaries and real career progression. For those willing to work hard and embrace the hospitality lifestyle, the rewards are there.
That is why I am proud to support the initiative of National Waiters Day, as created â¨by Galvin at Windows general manager Fred Sirieix - an operator who puts his best people in their perfect places, bringing joy to all his guests.
As an industry we have a real opportunity to improve the quality of applicants into our businesses at all levels. We offer an environment where hard work and entrepreneurship are rewarded, where mavericks are often protected and encouraged. It is an environment brimming with camaraderie and understanding, energy and good times. We are, after all, the brokers of happiness.
•National Waiters Day is taking place on â¨23 June 2013. The day aims to change the perception of front of house and service as an unskilled job involving long hours to one that offers good skills, leading to a rewarding career with good progression and amazing rewards.
It will be a day of celebration of the excellence, dedication, hard work and discipline of all the 2.5 million people working in the hospitality industry in the UK.