Operators must stick to the basics of leadership to be successful, including structured career development for staff.
That was the message from Lucknam Park chairman Harry Murray, delivering the keynote speech on the second day of last week's The Caterer Summit.
Murray said that there was an urgent need to improve the image of the industry in the outside world in order to develop leaders of the future who had the skills to create the right culture.
"Unfortunately very few companies now offer the structured career development programmes that were available at the start of my career," he said.
He added that it was imperative that those in positions of responsibility walked the floor and led by example.
Murray added: "There is a danger that leadership can be too scientific, too many books which contradict each other and too many trends.
My advice would be stick to the basics and don't just pay lip service but walk the talk.
"It is a time to return to the basics of good hospitality: eye contact, the smile, the warm greeting, listening carefully and understanding what the customer wants not assuming."
Meanwhile, service legend Silvano Giraldin emphasised that though service styles might have changed, the basics of service remained as true now as they did when he began at Le Gavroche.
He told the audience on day one of the Summit that front of house staff must be "merchants of happiness".
"Good waiters know when to start and stop a conversation. We should be actors," he added.
In a passionate presentation, Giraldin said the nature of service had changed, but the abiding principles had not.
He said: "Good service you only notice when it is missing. Service should be invisible. You should go to a restaurant and get a fantastic welcome, a drink within minutes, the menu should arrive quickly, the bill when you ask. A good waiter judges the mood of a customer, when to take an order and when to not impose themselves."
Referring to the trend towards more casual service, Giraldin said that he welcomed a less formal style, as long as the fundamentals were in place.