In London's Olympic year, the theme of the Master Innholders' 19th Annual General Managers' Conference, held at the London Hilton on Park Lane, was Going for Gold. Janet Harmer finds out what makes winners and losers in business
With speakers including former Olympians, Sebastian Coe and judo champion Karen Roberts - as well as a host of leading hospitality personalities - the 450 delegates at the Master Innholders' 19th Annual General Managers' Conference were inspired in ways and means of taking their businesses to world-beating level
Emotional skills beat technical skills
American restaurateur Danny Meyer told the conference that one of the keys to the success of his New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group was to surround himself with people who have hospitality running through their DNA.
"You can teach the technical skills, but you can't train someone to have a high HQ (hospitality quotient)," Meyer said.
He operates 10 restaurants in New York, three of which are among the city's top five most popular restaurants, according to the 2011 New York Zagat Survey.
"A person with a high HQ will have six emotional skills in place:
1. Kindness - they will be good to be around
2. Curiosity - each day they will be keen to learn something new
3. Extraordinary work ethic
4. High empathy - they will care how their actions make people feel
5. Emotional self-awareness - if they feel sunny, they will be willing to share it; but if they feel down, they need to be able to deal with it so that it doesn't impact others negatively.
6. Integrity - when life provides moral choices, they will always do the right thing even if it is not in their interest."
Meyer added that the difference between service and hospitality is that service is all about one size fits all, while hospitality is one size fits one.
MASTER INNHOLDERS SCHOLARSHIPS
The benefits of the Master Innholders Scholarship were shared with the audience by two recent scholarship holders, Kate Levin, general manager of the Capital hotel in London, and Andrew Foulkes, hotel manager, Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon.
After successfully passing a rigorous interview process, Levin and Foulkes completed a two-week programme of study at Cranfield School of Management, last year.
"It was like an academic boot-camp," said Foulkes, while Levin urged the general managers and hotel owners at the conference to encourage their staff to apply for a scholarship, worth £10,000-12,000 for each student, in the future.
DEALING WITH DRUGS
Two-Michelin-star chef Philip Howard urged the hoteliers attending the conference to provide support in a calm and non-judgemental manner to staff dealing with alcohol or drug problems.
In sharing his own very personal battle with drugs, which involved three years as a cocaine addict in the early 1990s, Howard, who has lost a brother to drugs abuse, said that addiction could hit anyone. "I had a balanced upbringing and a university education," he told the audience. "I suppose it was as the result of the pressures of a young marriage, a demanding boss and being put in charge of a kitchen with a lack of training that I turned to drugs as a means of taking some of the difficulties out of my life."
Howard explained that young people working hard within an intense kitchen, combined with playing hard, were vulnerable to the temptations of drink and drugs.
"The problems start to arise when the ways and means of buying drugs become a 24/7 all-consuming preoccupation," he said. "You end up in a self-obsessed bubble and for me everything fell apart."
The catalyst to Howard's recovery was when his boss, Nigel Platts-Martin confronted him. "He held a mirror up to my behaviour and offered support. He told me, in a non-threatening way, that my livelihood was at stake. The exposure was an immense relief and that was the stepping stone to two stints of rehabilitation.
"At the end of the day, the addict is the one who has to take the decision to stop, but you as the employer can put the cards on the table and offer support and hopefully help to turn them around."
APPEAL TO ADOPT MPs AND COUNCILLORS
Chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) Ufi Ibrahim renewed her call for all hoteliers to act as ambassadors to educate every MP and councillor in the UK about the importance of the hospitality industry to the UK economy, as well as support the campaign to reduce VAT.
"We have to get the message across to Government that this industry is one to be reckoned with," she told the audience. "With the research we undertook last year into the size and value of the hospitality industry to every local authority, we now have the facts and figures to prove the relevance of the industry."
Ibrahim also said that the vagaries of Government had resulted in the abolition of £30m of tourism funding for the regional development agencies and a reduction of VisitBritain funding followed by an extra £29m being made available for VisitBritian in October 2011.
"VisitBritain is now having to recruit and re-establish its presence all over again in places where it had to withdraw," she said. "These stop-start policies are very disruptive and represent a huge waste of limited resources."
THE IMPORTANCE OF WORK EXPERIENCE
The need to make work experience a more positive opportunity to encourage participants to enter the hospitality industry was discussed by three leading personalities: Anne Pierce, chief executive of Springboard UK, Peter Lederer, chairman, Gleneagles Hotel, and Harry Murray, chairman, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa.
Pierce said that despite work experience being the biggest influencer of career choice and the initiative by the Master Innholders to launch INSPIRE, a quality standard for work experience, in 2008, more work needed to be done to encourage hotels to be involved.
"The INSPIRE standard includes step-by-step guidelines which describes what's needed to deliver a high-quality, challenging work experience, but also provides the quality mark and the marketing and promotion to schools, colleges and universities," Pierce explained.
"It puts employers in the driving seat so that they're using work experience as a cost-effective way to attract talent."
Murray said: "We thought Lucknam was providing great work experience, but INSPIRE has really helped us improve."
The conference was told that the cost of joining INSPIRE was £50 for small-to-medium sized businesses, £125 for large hotels or small groups, with multiples paying £125 for the first 10 properties and £35 per property after that.
"It strikes me that most hotels would save that in recruitment costs alone," added Lederer.
Which do you think represents the most credible and reliable option to a customer?
Mystery Partnership 5%
Which channel is most relevant to your business?
Mystery Partnership 4%
drug and alcohol abuse
For help and support regarding drug and alcohol abuse in the hospitality work environment, contact The Ark for Business on 020 3004 5500 (www.thearkfoundation.co.uk). A straw poll at the conference showed that 93% of the 450 delegates believed that there was some level of substance or alcohol abuse within their businesses, while only 25% of them had approached the Ark Foundation for help in dealing with the problem.