As the industry sits precariously on the edge of a staffing crisis, highly trained ‘hospitality hounds' are being drafted in as furry saviours to distressed operators.
An army of dogs are undergoing training with the Royal Academy of Culinary Barks (RACB) and will be ready to leap into action from around 12 April. They will undertake tasks including delivering newspapers, greeting guests and even serving drinks with the aid of specially designed helmets.
Trainer Kay Nein says the four-legged workforce is currently a bit ruff around the edges, but has demonstrated a real talent for sniffing out customer needs and retrievering luggage. All have been carefully trained not to lick the leftovers from diners' plates.
Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford, of Cambridge's Midsummer House, is among those to have signed up to the scheme. He told The Caterer: "We appreciate that a waiter with a wagging tail may not be what diners expect, but we're confident that our new recruits will quickly settle into the team.
"We've run some trials with the RACB and they don't take as many breaks as our more traditional workforce, although my sausage order is set to go through the roof. I've also had to double supplies of doggy bags."
Brexit-loving MP Facob Rees Dogg made no bones about supporting the initiative. He said: "This is a scheme worthy of Churchill himself and I'm confident recruits will follow in the footsteps of the great British bulldog, boldly leading hospitality workers into battle."
Experts said German shepherds, Spanish water dogs and French poodles have all excelled in training, warning operators to organise pet passports before Parliament has the chance to pass any barking mad bills.
Jack Russell, top dog at UKHospitality, had some reservations. He added: "If this initiative is fur real, we need to pay the hounds minimum wage. Employees, however many legs they have, cannot be asked to work for bare-bones wages."
Dogs must be provided with basket and board by their new employers with thankful customers encouraged to carry tipping biscuits. Some operators have already said guests will be offered a discount if they offer to take the dogs for walkies during their stay. 1
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