The chief executive of Travelodge has criticised People 1st for using the Fawlty Towers character Manuel to represent the hospitality workforce in a new report on skills.
In the report, released this week, the Sector Skills Council warned that the hospitality industry needed to act now to rid itself of the "Manuel" factor in order to take advantage of the 2012 Olympic Games.
About 6.5 million people will be drawn to London for the Olympics but "like the accident-prone Spanish waiter, waiters are among a number of jobs within hospitality which urgently need to improve skills," People 1st said.
There needs to be a significant shift in the quality of customer service delivered in the run-up to 2012, as the current perception of the UK's welcome to overseas visitors ranks only 17th out of 35 developed countries, the report added.
Travelodge boss Grant Hearn acknowledged action was required to improve skills in the industry, but said references to Manuel were unhelpful.
"I personally have a problem with using an outdated comedy character to epitomise our workforce, when really we should be looking to engage them instead," he said. "It makes for headlines, but sends the wrong message to our staff and our customers. People 1st should be continuing its policy of engaging industry leaders to find solutions to the skills challenges that lie ahead, rather than trying to pressure us in public."
The report also revealed that:
- Waiting staff need to enhance skills, knowledge and attributes in areas including timekeeping and understanding cultural differences.
- Attributes currently lacking among waiting staff include communications and language skills.
- Nearly two-thirds of London employers believe their staff customer service skills aren't up to scratch.
- The high proportion of overseas workers already working in London in the sector can play a big role in helping companies fine-tune their customer experience.
Meanwhile, a study released yesterday by Travelodge valued the tourism benefits of hosting the Olympics at potentially £1b more than current Government forecasts of £2b. It revealed that Olympic hosts, on average, outperformed global tourism growth by 50% in the four years before and the four years after the games but warned of a 4.3% decline in growth in the games year itself.
By Daniel Thomas