Speaking with Paul Askew yesterday, who due to the adverse weather was mid-stream in cancelling 88 outdoor covers, I found inspiring. Amidst his present tense challenges, he was equally, if not more concerned about his industry.
Askew is enjoying his 40th year in hospitality, chef and owner of The Art School restaurant, The Art School Cellars, and The Art of Wine.
His immediate concern was speaking with 88 diners booked, and now unable to enjoy his Liverpudlian hospitality, but he made time to talk about his concerns for our industry.
The conversation was initiated by a twitter exchange led by Askew’s posting a call for hospitality people that have moved to other industries, to come back to hospitality. Having seen many similar posts recently I wanted to find out more.
The nub of the predicament Askew finds himself in is, not having enough people applying for positions that pre-Covid and pre-Brexit he would have had no difficulty filling.
The positions he is having most difficulty with is, all front of house roles, and pastry chefs. He is offering a four-day working week, above average basic pay, tips, training, and genuine career development opportunities.
He may not appreciate my using the term, but he is also a ‘name’ in hospitality that would ordinarily attract high numbers of applicants. I have spoken with other ‘names’ is recent weeks experiencing similar problems. Unused to such circumstances, they are alarmed.
So, why is there such a dramatic change in the air? When I put the question to Askew his answer was Covid and Brexit.
“Covid led people working in hospitality when it closed to seek jobs in other areas. Having worked in other areas, many are now reluctant to return. The experience of a 9-5 work and life balance, alongside similar income clearly appeals to many.
“Brexit, the government’s own Office for National Statistics figures show at least 355,000 non-UK nationals, that worked in hospitality have left the UK. Other reports suggest it could be more than double that figure. These are the people that pre-Brexit would be applying for the positions we and so many others have open, but they were forced to leave.”
Askew then reflected on the chefs that inspired him to join the “hospitality family” as he put it, people who came to this country and helped place British cuisine on the world’s top table. Many greats were discussed with Albert and Michel Roux seen by Askew as not just founding fathers of British cuisine, but crucially its mentors too.
“Not welcoming people to work in hospitality from a diverse range of nationalities and cultures is already a big issue facing the industry. At a point when pent up demand is evident, much needed for people’s wellbeing, and essential to hospitality’s recovery, excluding people with the much-needed skills and experience so badly needed is madness.”
We also discussed long term issues that blight hospitality, pay and working conditions, that of late come up ever more frequently in twitter exchanges, and many other interchanges. We both agreed the day could be spent on the subject, so moved on, but not before we also agreed to return to it.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Paul Askew interprets a perfect storm on the horizon for hospitality. – 9 May 2021 – Paul Askew interprets a perfect storm on the horizon for hospitality.
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