Giving hospitality students the edge

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PH at Edge Hotel SchoolOne evening this week I had the enormous pleasure of meeting and speaking with students at The Edge Hotel School near Colchester. It is a unique enterprise which operates as part of the University of Essex and has the advantage of being incorporated into a real working hotel, Wivenhoe House, so students can gain proper hands-on experience in all departments alongside their academic training.

All this means that after two years (yes, they cram a three year course into 24 intensive months) these budding general managers are industry-ready as soon as they graduate. The hotel’s GM, Oliver Brown, prefers to use a culinary term and describes them as “oven ready” – I think we know what he means.

The group of young men and women that I met were keenly interested in all aspects of the trade and several had already set their sights on a specialism, such as marketing or event management, though the course is ideal preparation for a life in general hotel management. According to its Principal, Andrew Boer, almost 100% of graduates over the school’s first 5 years have gone straight into hospitality jobs and yet, amazingly, they have vacancies on upcoming courses waiting to be filled.

My personal feeling is that before signing up to some other degree course with only a flimsy chance of it leading to an actual job, school leavers should be encouraged to consider the hotel industry with it’s endless opportunities for rapid promotion and world travel. And I really couldn’t imagine a better place to start than The Edge.

Find out more here: www.edgehotelschool.ac.uk/EHS100

Edge Hotel School

I agree with Nick..sorry, Peter

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Do you recall the general election of 2010 in which Gordon Brown famously tried to spoil things for David Cameron by claiming to agree with Nick Clegg during the leaders’ debates?

I was reminded of this at the recent National Hotel Marketing Conference, organised by Martin Evans and the Hotel Marketing Association, where several speakers kindly said they agreed with comments I’d made in my own presentation near the start of the day. The gist of my piece was that although we are judged by the number and value of rooms we sell, what we’re actually selling is service. This is especially true at the top end of the market, given the many luxuries our customers already have access to at home, such as beautiful rooms and bathrooms and a good wine cellar.

Peter at NHMC 2017A high point of the day was an interview with Eamonn Elliott, chief executive at Pride of Britain’s current ‘Hotel of the Year’ Rockliffe Hall. He gave generous credit to members of his team for the hotel’s success, saying each of them drew upon their “inner demons” to work harder and achieve more.

The conference is always a pleasure to take part in and, as I have proved, you don’t need to know very much to make a useful contribution.

Voice of the balls?

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Last Tuesday night I had the extraordinary privilege to be the “Voice of God” at the 2017 Catey Awards, presented by the publishers of The Caterer magazine at the Grosvenor House Hotel. There were 1,250 guests at the dinner and our sparkling host was Canadian stand-up comic Kathryn Ryan.

Cateys 2017(Picture shows the room while the technical team rehearsed behind the scenes before the event)

On arrival I was shown to a small table that had on it a small lamp, a pair of headphones plugged into a two way box, a script and a large microphone. To this I added a vital packet of lozenges and some lime cordial for the long task ahead.

Beside me was Julia our ‘Show Caller’ who made everything happen at precisely the right moment; 22 awards plus various speeches and bits of video. She must have the same kind of brain as an air traffic controller to be able to do that – amazing.

The best part of it for me was having such powerful amplification at my disposal, easily enabling my voice to be heard over all the talking and music. On nothing more than lime cordial I felt drunk with power!

Afterwards a leading hotelier commented that I reminded him of Alan Dedicoat (the BBC’s “Voice of the balls” for the Lotto draws). Quite handy if I should ever be offered bingo work, I suppose.

 

No friendly debate in the real world of politics

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BHA summitThis week I took part in a debate at the BHA Summit, opposing the motion “Traditional hotels are dying when faced with the growth of serviced apartments”, chaired by Piers Brown who manages both Boutique Hotel News and Serviced Apartment News.

My partner in the debate was Rafi Bejerano whose family own Pride of Britain member hotel The Arch London.

We were up against George Westwell and Paul Rands, two leading figures in the Serviced Apartment sector who made powerful opening speeches in favour of the motion. A lack of modesty allows me to report that we won hands down, largely because the hotel sector is doing demonstrably well, despite all the challenges it faces. It was interesting, though, to learn about how profitable apartments can be and the growing demand for them in big cities.

All this was of course a very friendly affair with no terrible consequences for the four of us. What a contrast with the real world of political debate and the dirty tactics used. Like many I watched the general election unfold with my head in my hands – the stability and certainty Mrs May hoped to bring to our country has proved as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath.

TV interviews encourage us to hate at least half of the politicians we see. The few I’ve met in person have all been absolutely charming so this is a cruel distortion – like or loathe ‘em most have gone into politics wanting to do some good. Perhaps we need to learn to be kinder to them, and allow their best qualities to shine?

What a life

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Wiltshire LifeThe June issue of Wiltshire Life magazine (a seriously good read) gives a double page spread to someone almost nobody has heard of, one Peter Hancock, who happens to live and work in that lovely county.

You wouldn’t believe the flack I’ve had since. “Surely that’s not your house?” Well no, it’s Whatley Manor Hotel as stated in the article. “My word, you look grumpy” Yes I do rather, can only blame the sunshine.

The best was from our chairman at Pride of Britain who was intrigued by a reference in the piece to the smallest church in England which forms part of the view from my office window. So I sent her a picture of it. “My word, it really is tiny” was her response. Not something a fellow likes to hear too often.

 

 

Hospitality heroes

BTTF33 weeks on and everybody is still talking about “Back to the Floor”, a dinner held at The Grosvenor House Hotel on April 7th in aid of our industry charity Hospitality Action.

As you can see from the picture, our splendid brigade of waiters and sommeliers were all leading figures from the hotel and catering trade and our host, Stuart Bowery, made the whole thing possible with lots of professional help from his team behind the scenes.

The event was the brainchild of Philip Newman-Hall and Danny Pecorelli and my supporting role as compere included running the live auction which gave our 370 wonderful guests a further chance to show their generosity, with the whole event raising an astonishing £92,000 for the charity, which helps those from the hospitality industry who find themselves in crisis.

Obviously it would have been even better to reach that magic figure of £100,000 so if you’re feeling flush please feel free to bung an extra £8k to http://www.hospitalityaction.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/donate/

Roll on 2019 at The Dorchester when we re-create the magic all over again!

No place for bullies here

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A recent piece in The Guardian newspaper alleges that bullying and the routine abuse of staff working at restaurants is rife in this country. The claims made in the article are likely to deter young people from wanting to join our industry, just when we need lots more of them to help us cope with the high demand caterers and hoteliers are currently enjoying.

There are indeed some disgraceful people in positions of authority, especially in kitchens unfortunately, but these are the minority we need to weed out. Most people in hospitality have rewarding jobs and the best of them are making great lives for themselves thanks to their happy customers.

Several of us felt so strongly we contributed to a rebuttal.

Here’s the full response in The Caterer: https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/499101/hospitality-leaders-hit-back-at-guardian-article-which-highlights-poor-treatment-of-staff

 

Missing the big picture

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BudgetThe day after Philip Hammond’s first budget much comment surrounds his use of National Insurance changes to meet the rocketing cost of public services. And as with all budgets, there are both winners and losers.

But these are petty details compared with the overall effect of being sensible with the public finances. This country has an enormous pile of debt (measured not in millions but in trillions of pounds) yet remains wonderfully credit-worthy, and so our interest rates are low because the likes of “Spreadsheet Phil” do not spook the markets in ways that more reckless politicians – greedy for popularity –  might do.

I can remember working for a hotel owner in the late 1970s who was paying 18% interest on his substantial borrowings. Imagine dealing with that today and suddenly the other burdens look relatively mild.

Service charges and our reputation

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This week’s Caterer magazine (10th Feb 2017) includes a compelling piece by Bob Cotton and Miles Quest on the damage our industry has done to itself by failing in some cases (we don’t know how many) to pay the National Living Wage and in some cases (again, we don’t know how many) failing to distribute service charges to their staff in a fair way.

I am sorry to say that a high profile restaurateur made matters worse recently by attempting to defend the latter practise on the grounds that it’s the only way to keep his business afloat, and the former on the grounds that he simply didn’t know it was happening. This isn’t good enough if we want to attract bright people into the hotel and catering trade at a time of high employment in this country.

As the authors of the article say, transparency is key to restoring any faith the public may still have in the way service charges are handled. Various codes of conduct have been suggested but at the moment each business does things its own way, with some abusing the system appallingly while others go to great lengths to ensure their teams are properly rewarded.

It is regrettable that such a thing should be necessary, but I believe the time has come for all establishments to declare in writing (for customers and staff to plainly see) what they do with any service charges they collect. The best are already doing this. For the sake of our industry’s reputation, others must follow without delay.

Let us entertain you

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BTTF3Around 30 of the top men and women in the hotel & catering trade have been persuaded to go “back to the floor” by serving as waiters and sommeliers for those lucky enough to bag a table for one very special evening on April 7th at The Grosvenor House (a JW Marriot Hotel) Park Lane, London.

This will be the third and by far the largest “Back to the Floor” dinner organised by Philip Newman-Hall and Danny Pecorelli with all proceeds going to our industry charity, Hospitality Action. I shall be there as MC and auctioneer so please come ready to spend, spend, spend.

Tickets are selling fast CLICK HERE TO BOOK