The London food scene in the last five years has completely transformed, we no longer have the training wheels on. But has the race to the top effected important elements of becoming a hospitality professional?
Working front of house was previously looked at as a long journey. First you had to prove yourself as a commis waiter, everything from polishing cutlery, serving bread and the ever-important knowledge that you need to clean EVERYTHING. You’d stumble home after a 14 hour day only to read over menu descriptions and talk to yourself trying to memorise the regions of a particular cheese and/or wine. Once a waiter, it was imperative to never forget the importance of making sure the new commis waiters worked hard enough to earn their space on the floor in the same respect you had. They needed to have the skills and the privilege to make someone's visit not just a meal, but a dining experience.
Once you're over the first hump you're ready for the next, striving to be a headwaiter, sommelier or even one day a manager. With hard work, study and persistence you will get there in a few years, but why does this sound like a thing of the past? Why is the waiter you worked with a year ago now a wine buyer for a restaurant? Kitchen porter now pastry chef? Receptionist now Communications Director?
There is no doubt these people have worked hard, but what about all the missing steps in between. Would you send a doctor into surgery having not completed all his or her medical courses? The same applies for those of us in hospitality. Without the correct training and education, the hard work restaurants have put in to change the perception of the English dining scene will fall to the wayside and we will be back at square one.
This is not a new issue, it is one that has been raised on several occasions, particularly in recent years, recent months even. Restaurants are opening up so quickly and they all need staff. What is happening is that good professionally trained staff for the roles you need to fill are as hard to find as a £20 note on the street. Therefore you are left looking for people that might have worked in a decent restaurant previously, even if only for a short time and training them from scratch. Not only that, once you find someone who is worth a shot, they want to be paid extremely high before proving themselves.
Management and restaurateurs are the cause as much as the solution. So how do we ensure that the next generation of hospitality professionals haven't missed half the steps? Restaurants who create team moral, uphold strong communication and care for their teams progression are the ones who maintain a roster of loyal people. It is not a gift to work for you, what you give them is a gift.
Invest in training, motivation and long-term development of people. Nurture your staff. If you don’t you are showing a lack of care for their career progression as well as for your guests who dine with you.