As an experienced chef, I have faced many challenges throughout my career. Here are 5 challenges I face, and how I try to overcome them.
Without a doubt, the first topic I’d like to touch on here is ‘no shows’. This has become an increasingly talked about issue within the industry and was actually covered in detail a couple of months ago on Channel 4 in an episode called ‘Tricks of the Restaurant Trade’ which I watched with intrigue. The program came just after the high profile closure of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain with the loss of a 1000 jobs and only served to highlight even more the financial cost of this issue on the industry.
I have thought for some time now that when you book a hotel say, you at least pay a deposit, or you pay in full before your stay. The same applies when you book a flight – so why should a restaurant reservation be any different? Time and again in recent years, we take bookings in good faith only to see those tables sitting empty when people choose not to show at the last minute. This is a very real problem and comes at a cost of £100’s if not £1000’s of pounds of revenue per week for some restaurants.
More needs to be done to combat this problem and the most logical way, I feel, is the implementation of non-refundable deposits being taken when taking bookings. This would help a lot of businesses and ultimately save jobs!
An area that has become more of an issue for me in very recent years at my ripe old age is tiredness and general fatigue and how best to deal with it. As we are all aware, regardless of your job role, the hospitality industry is a tough one to be in. The hours, time spent on your feet, split-shifts, straight shifts, sometimes night shifts - we can all relate.
More often now, I find myself turning to coffee or even very occasionally the odd energy drink, which brings me to my point. Energy drinks, in my opinion, should only be used as an OCCASIONAL aid in helping you combat tiredness. The best way to keep going day-to-day is, of course, the natural way - rest and sleep! I have worked with several people over the years who get into the habit of consuming such aids on literally a daily basis - this makes no sense either for your body that will be in a permanent state of ‘catch up’ or for your pocket. Be kinder to your body!
Rising business rates
While we are on the subject of money, rapidly growing business rates and costs have become a serious issue for the majority of businesses now. As somebody that hasn’t yet run my own business, this hasn’t affected me directly, but I am well aware of the pressure this puts on employers.
Escalating costs and our current VAT rate make balancing the books and making ends meet a daily challenge - which brings me back round to ‘no shows’. This needs to be addressed, and a solution reached as quickly as possible. Perhaps as our government are so quick to take our 20%, maybe they could get involved a bit and help the hospitality industry combat the problem. Far fetched? Who knows! It would work for all, though, right?
Okay, back to my favourite topic - work ethic! Is it just me or has staff turnover become much more a problem for the industry, especially in the past five years or so? What I’m almost inclined to say here is that it is our current youth of today that have a lesser enthusiasm and want to work. Maybe it is our education system or our wonderful benefit system that, although being reformed now, has only served to discourage our workers of today to put in the hours, strive and work hard.
Whatever the reasons, I feel it has become more an issue for employers and indeed the loyal, long-standing employees in workplaces as we are in a constant position of having to retrain people. This, of course, is part and parcel of what we do but is also a distraction when trying to simply ‘get on’ and run a business day-to-day. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this other than to keep retraining and well enough so that people enjoy what they do and get some kind of job satisfaction. That in itself encourages loyalty and commitment.
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A final topic I’d like to cover here is the quite apparent increase in ‘cautious consumers’. By this, of course, I am referring to the rise in Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free and Dairy Free diets and all of the food allergies and intolerances that have always been out there but are now much more in the public eye and are quite rightly catered for. This, without doubt, has become a much bigger issue for the industry in the past 15-20 years, especially since the identification of the 14 main allergens in our food by the government back in 2014.
I think for some businesses, especially the smaller businesses, there has been a quiet struggle to keep up with demand. I personally am proud that the catering industry has ‘stepped up to the plate’ If you’ll pardon the pun, and met this head-on and we now seem to be taking it in our stride - it is a real credit to what we do!