Andrew Scott: Investing in the future of hospitality – the good, the bad and the ugly

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With a hands-on background in international hospitality, Andrew Scott runs Victus Consultancy, which supports businesses across the UK improve and grow. His ‘sleeves rolled up and get stuck in’ attitude has proved successful with a variety of businesses and in 2016 he was awarded recognition for his Outstanding Contribution to Hospitality.

As people across the country settle back into work after their summer holidays, now is the perfect time to be giving a pat on the back to one of Scotland’s biggest industries – hospitality and tourism.

Just this month the UK saw a 7% rise in foreign visits – a massive boost to the economy. With tourism a particularly important industry in Scotland, this is great news. This surge in visitors has been partially explained by the drop in the value of the pound against the dollar, meaning many items are cheaper for tourists than they would have been
in the previous year.

I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that you can build a sustainable tourism economy on the back of currency depreciation, however, and we do need to pay heed to the wider economic landscape in this industry.

There’s been serious concern in recent months about the difficulty of recruiting and retaining the staff that are crucial to providing the quality service upon which hospitality businesses depend. With greater restrictions on immigration, this may well be tricky for the many businesses that rely on foreign labour.

But the potential problem is magnified by our failure as a nation to recognise hospitality as a professional industry that should be promoted to talented school leavers seeking a rewarding career. I still to this dayhear members of the public asking my professional, full time front of house staff, “ So, what else do you do?” and then seem to be surprised to find out that this is their chosen career.

With rising business rates, the introduction of the living wage, increasing food prices, the uncertainty of Brexit and the proliferation of huge hotel and restaurant chains: times have never been tougher for humble hospitality and catering SMEs. It’s certainly tempting in straightened financial times to cut back on staff training but I can tell you with absolute conviction that this is a critical time to invest in staff.

In the short term, businesses can recruit on personality and invest in training but in the longer term if we’re going to get young people engaged with our industry then we need to start them young and ignite sparks of passion. Let’s infiltrate schools and colleges and lead pupils and students throughout their learning journey from primary school to
high school, and from college and into their first job with the catering and hospitality industry. This industry can lead to the most amazing journey with plenty of opportunities along the way.

And when they’re working in the industry, we have to continue to develop them. I’m passionate about hospitality. I’ve worked in kitchens, hotels, restaurants, bars and bistros for over thirty years. I love it, but the demands are great – long hours, meeting our guests’ increasingly high expectations, and of course overseeing and managing operations, often at breakneck speed. It can be almost impossible to arrange a team meeting, never mind catch your breath. This inevitably takes its toll, and as an industry we suffer from higher than average rates of alcohol and drug abuse. A recent survey stated that 25% of hospitality employees are unsatisfied with their personal work-life balance, and the attitude of “I was made to do it” is still prevalent. It’s imperative that we all manage our work-life better to avoid stress, resentment, or even burn out.

Fortunately, flexible working and work-life balance incentives and policies are starting to become the norm, and are increasingly sought after by employees. It’s companies that offer better conditions like these and truly work to develop their staff that will survive and thrive in leaner times.

And if we recognise the value of those working within hospitality, we’re likely to see the value of the industry in Scotland grow, to the benefit of the whole country. Plus, of course, with such a wonderful leisure industry on our doorstep, we won’t need to travel far for our next holiday or meal out!


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