Independent country house hotel group, Hand Picked Hotels, has launched a four-day working week for chefs, designed to support a greater work-life balance for kitchen teams and attract more skilled professionals to the industry.
The new four days on / three days off initiative is being trialled at the group’s Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon as part of a wider series of recruitment and retention programmes driven by new Director of Food & Beverage, Graeme Nesbitt.
Graeme comments, “The hotel and hospitality industry has long been vocal about the growing shortage of skilled, trained chefs and the gap is widening – it is still very much a case of supply outstripping demand and as an industry we have to work harder to turn heads. At Hand Picked Hotels, we are committed to exploring ways to challenge the perception that a healthier attitude to balancing commitments at work and at home can’t be achieved for chefs, and our new four-day working week underlines that.
“With a portfolio of award-winning restaurants where quality and consistency is paramount, chef and kitchen team retention is just as critical as attracting talent in the first place – it must go hand in hand. Having been a chef for many years, I know that the kitchen is one of the most rewarding areas of the business to develop skills and knowledge and we have a number of training programmes in place to nurture and home-grow talent within Hand Picked which is a key part of our people development strategy.”
New training and development programmes recently launched at Hand Picked Hotels include an all-new digital training platform designed to offer choice and flexibility to a wider demographic. Their bespoke O.W.L (Online Work Learning) portal allows the team to undertake virtual training supported by videos and webinars with a calendar of online courses relevant to their role.
“In this digitally-savvy age, it’s important we tailor training opportunities to reach everyone in the way that works best for them” continues Graeme, “as it’s not always a one-size-fits-all approach with a SOP manual. But, as well as online learning, at the other end of the spectrum we’ve also gone back to basics and introduced a Restaurant School for our front of house teams after identifying some essential skills gaps in formal table set up and service etiquette. It’s what I’d describe as good, honest and traditional hotel keeping but with a modern approach!”
Hand Picked Hotels also operate a dedicated Chefs Academy and have had the most successful season of signups to their Leaders of the Future management training programme this year, proving there is a “healthy ‘yearning for learning’ mentality among the team,” says Graeme, and “a strong motivation to progress and develop meaningful careers in hospitality.”
Hand Picked Hotels is a privately-owned group of 20 country house hotels and spa resorts located throughout the UK and the Channel Islands. The majority of hotels are listed buildings of historical significance with acres of private grounds and each has been sympathetically designed to make the most of their original period features whilst blending contemporary touches that add comfort and style.
In the restaurants, bars and private event spaces, Hand Picked Hotels serve good, honest British food with an extensive wine list featuring New and Old World classics and local wines. The group has won an impressive number of awards, with 15 hotels awarded two AA rosette status and Grand Jersey holding four rosettes for its Tassili restaurant. Eleven hotels have achieved AA red star status which means they stand out as the very best in the British Isles. There are also ten hotels with spa and health clubs offering the latest therapies and treatments to promote wellbeing and relaxation.
Graeme joined Hand Picked Hotels in April 2018 and in his role as Director of Food & Beverage oversees all F&B operations across the group including restaurants, lounges, bars, rooms and in-room dining. With a career spanning 20+ years in 4* and 5* hotels, Graeme is passionate about using quality food that’s locally-sourced wherever possible with a focus on provenance and community engagement in order to deliver an authentic dining experience that complements the destination.