With regard to the editorial piece by James Garner and the story by Tom Bill on 3% of students entering contracting (Caterer, 18 May), they have made the classic mistake of taking a statistic in isolation and have oversensationalised one aspect of a greater issue.
As a past student of Oxford Brookes University, where the team provide an outstanding foundation in all areas of hospitality, I have two key questions that need to be asked.
First, what proportion of students were going to continue a career in hospitality when they finished their course?
When I was at Brookes and this question was asked by Sir Rocco Forte, fewer than one-third of the students planned to stay in the industry, suggesting that 70% would leave.
Second, what proportion of staff move from restaurants and hotels to contracting, compared with the other direction?
Having worked for three leading contract caterers in the UK, I have found that there are a large number of people who move into the industry after some time in the commercial sector. Whatever their reason for leaving the commercial sector, the fact that there are so many people with multi-sector experience helps to keep contracting fresh and vibrant with no shortage of great new ideas.
In summary, the issue is greater than pointing the finger at universities for not developing an entire syllabus around contracting. The issues are related to the pandemic that is the shortage of hospitality staff throughout the UK. A major disincentive for many will be the perceived servile environment, which is less attractive than many other booming industries that will all be competing on the "milk round". Not even the branded pens that were referred to would help to make the industry more attractive.
I am the only person I know from my time at Brookes who is still in the industry; the others have found alternative career paths. But - guess what - I am currently working in the contract catering sector. Maybe I could be your next headline: 99% of hospitality graduates surveyed leave the industry - contract catering is the only sector standing.
Frazer Rendell, by e-mail
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