Onwards it’s our next battle in hospitality. This potential crisis has been bubbling for years now – it’s one that we’ve always known was on the horizon, but has been put on the back burner again these last 12 months whilst we concentrated on survival. With the light finally glimmering at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to act. Not only on a strategic level with our hospitality bodies, but also individually with our general managers (arguably those who’ll be facing this battle head on).

So, any clues as to what we’re talking about? You got it – it’s people.

Hospitality in the UK is already burdened with the perception of being a “student job”, and the impact of lockdown certainly hasn’t helped. With one fifth of the sector losing their jobs last year, and potentially many more to come, it’s reasonable to believe that those people may look into ‘more secure ’sectors. This is reflected in our conversations with job hunters at Sixty Eight People.

Strategically, we must act fast. Realistically, attracting thousands into the industry will involve changing the perception of hospitality careers. I admit – this is a momentous task, one that may well take years. I’m not naive enough to think we can click our fingers and the talent will come running.

But what can we do to take action NOW? This week, next week, today? It’s estimated that up to 40% of furloughed employees may not return to their same place of work – so I have no doubt that recruitment agencies such as my own will have a busy next few weeks.

Considering all this, I present an idea. Just one idea, conjured up during just one of my many sleepless nights (thanks a lot, 2020).


A frontline initiative to encourage our managers at site level to look beyond a CV, beyond previous training, beyond skill level. To seek out behaviour. It will take a leap of faith, and it will take quality interview training. Most of all, it will take general managers having confidence in their ability to ‘create ’superstars, rather than just hiring the finished article.

I know I’m not the only one to see so many hourly paid adverts that insist on ‘cocktail experience’, or ‘2 years hospitality ’experience. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why. Venues have a gap to fill, and not needing to factor in the training time can be a big advantage – previous experience is perceived to be a safe bet. I’d argue this perception needs to change. The best businesses are continuously meeting people, getting the right personality fit, and creating talent banks. Panic recruiting simply does not work.

Chloe isn’t your best bartender because she makes the drink any better than anyone else. She’s your best bartender because she is hardworking, resilient, creative and great at building relationships. Josh isn’t your best server because he joined your business knowing what he was doing. He’s the best because he has initiative, a thirst for knowledge and empathy. ALL these behaviours exist in other sectors. Therefore when we ask for existing experience, and overlook great candidates wishing to start out in the sector, we miss out.

Speaking plainly, we simply don’t have that luxury anymore. Okay, on board? Let’s see how we do this.

It starts with meeting people we wouldn’t usually meet. Seeing beyond a CV. We need to perfect our interviewing technique so we’re able to glean behavioural traits, and predict future performance. It’s been proven that if a candidate was a high performer in a previous role, irrelevant of sector, they’re likely to perform well. Need resilience, positivity and kindness? Focus your interviews on discovering whether your candidates can evidence these competencies in a previous job, their education, or even their personal life.

Perhaps this style of hiring would mean dropping the traditional ‘trial shift’ – something I’ve fallen in and out of love with now for years. But does a trial even help? Interestingly, Andrew O ’Callaghan from Dishoom confirms: “We dropped our trial shifts. We simply couldn’t find a correlation between them and length of service”.

As with anything, there are pro’s and con’s.

The Pros

• We open our minds to great talent from other sectors.

• We perfect our interview technique.

• We ‘homegrow ’our superstars, training them our way.

• We reap the rewards of rebuilding our sector through innovative recruitment.

The Cons

• New recruits may take longer to reach ‘break eve ’- where they start to add value to our operations.

• Training needs to deliver – it must be robust, structured and continuous.

• With this new level of investment it’s imperative we retain people, so reviewing all factors may be essential (working hours, pay, benefits, working conditions)

So, there you have it – this crusader’s one idea. Perhaps it might help us get off the ground when it comes to recruiting our re-opening teams.

Every huge change is helped by individuals doing small things. Even if every GM just recruited one person they wouldn’t have normally given a shot to – imagine that.