Chef Simon Boyle calls for hospitality sector action

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Simon Boyle
Simon Boyle

At a time when chefs are short in supply, London-based social enterprise business Beyond Food Community Interest Company is offering like-minded employers across the hospitality and foodservice industries the opportunity to recruit the next graduate chef and front-of-house apprentices trained by the foundation. PBUK speaks with its founder – chef and author Simon Boyle – to find out how employers can get on board, and how else companies across the food sector can galvanise recruitment. 

The growth rate of the UK foodservice and catering sectors shows no signs of abating, with the combined industries having doubled in size over the past 20 years, according to The British Hospitality Association. But as Brits continue to eat more outside of the home, hospitality employers face the challenge of recruiting sufficient workers during a period of uncertainty in the wake of Brexit.

This is where Beyond Food is playing a small, yet remarkably inspirational, role in terms of supporting recruitment while, at the same time, using food as a catalyst for social change.

Each year, the foundation offers apprenticeships to around eight vulnerable people who have either experienced or been at risk of homelessness. Through in-house training at Brigade Bar and Bistro, together with coaching given by a specialist team, including Boyle, the apprentices are inspired to gain stable, often life-long, employment in the hospitality sector.

Employers needed 

It all starts with annual work placements within the industry that are organised by Beyond Food. Having already worked with a varied group of major hospitality brands, Beyond Food is actively seeking further employers for its upcoming and future graduates, as well as new partners to support the foundation on a day-to-day basis. 

“We are looking for employers across all sectors of hospitality; from restaurants, hotels and cafés, all the way through to corporate hospitality, to provide options that appeal to all of our apprentices,” explains Boyle, who will also be mentoring at The Fresh Careers Fair this week, on Thursday, 8 March.

“We’re looking for annual (or longer) placements for apprentice commis chefs, and full-time front-of-house jobs for our trained bar staff and assistant waiters. Generally, these positions need to be in London, and employers must offer the National Minimum Wage or the London Living Wage.”

As part of its search for new partners, Beyond Food will be present at The Fresh Careers Fair this week, exhibiting alongside BaxterStorey. As well as offering his support as a mentor at the recruitment event, Boyle will bring some of the foundation’s graduate apprentices who are looking for suitable employment in the hospitality sector.

“The idea of having one room where students and those looking for work can walk around and talk to a load of good employers is fantastic,” he notes. “[Recruitment is] about making sure there is an opportunity to talk. We’ll all be there to represent the [food supply] industry as a whole.”

Attracting talent

In general, Boyle says hospitality companies could do more to inspire the best people to work for them, and particularly when it comes to offering salaries. Although he accepts the difficulties in the current financial climate, he claims part of the recruitment challenge comes down to workers not being paid in same way as in corporate businesses. 

“The industry needs to change,” he states. “People are losing the passion because the [salary] packages aren’t very good, as far as I can see. People want to work but they’re not getting paid much and they’re not getting good benefit packages, while those not on contracts don’t know where they stand.

“[Hospitality] businesses need to go out of their way to attract people,” he suggests. “They try to understand who their customers are, but they should understand who their ideal employees are too. They need to lead their businesses inspirationally.” 

Boyle also believes the industry should attract its future workforce from a very early age by making sure hospitality is taught in an interesting way at school.

“Charities like Adopt A School run by The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (in which I’m involved) work with schools to try to encourage good food appreciation among pupils,” he notes. “So, when youngsters start to look at their career options they’ll look at the hospitality sector with interest.”

Partner criteria

For Beyond Food, finding the right businesses to recruit its graduate apprentices is paramount. In the past, the foundation has partnered with high-profile companies including: the Savoy Group, Hilton hotels, BaxterStorey, Sodexa, Compass, Carluccio’s, Corbin and King Restaurants, De Vere Venues and Brassiere Blanc, as well as independent restaurants such as Bruno Loubet’s Grainstore.

Above all, Boyle says the most important criteria is supportive companies who understand what Beyond Food is trying to achieve – to get vulnerable people into work. 

“Normally, we look for organisations that have a good structure and a good set of values and beliefs,” he points out. “The environment needs to be supportive from the top of the business right down to the guys who will work side by side with our apprentices.

“Employers will need to accommodate an extra person who may not pull their weight right from the start because they are new to the trade and they are vulnerable. Some might be earning for the first time, so they will be learning how to manage their income as well, and some might not be completely well.”

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