Innovative now, sustainable long term

We meet Marco Reick, People Director at Leon Restaurants and judge of our People Awards 2017

“ People Awards are so important as a bench mark in this industry,” said Marco Reick, People Director at Leon. “As an industry, we all have to work towards making the sector one of choice, one where people choose to come for a career. That only works if we all become better and better and better as employers.”

Marco Reick is having an impressive career. One of judges for the 2017 People Awards, Marco moved to the UK from Germany in 2003, he entered the hospitality industry and has never looked back. He joined The Restaurant Group in 2007 and helped grow and shape the company as Head of Recruitment; “When I started at TRG, there were 260 restaurants and when I left they had 450. So with that rapid growth, we had recruit from across the country in a tough market.” Marco also nurtured TRG’s development programme, creating their first graduate scheme, which afforded newcomers to the industry the chance to rise to a General Manager position in just 18 months.

In 2013, after more than six successful years at The Restaurant Group, Marco went on to join the fledgling Bill’s, where the situation couldn’t have been more different. “Bill’s, at the time, was very small in comparison to TRG,” explains Marco. “We opened more than 20 sites every year that I was there. There was huge expansion, very intense, but a real joy to be involved in such a success story at that time. Their environment was very entrepreneurial and very creative.”

With more and more employers realising the importance of company culture, Marco, last year, entered into talks with Leon co-founder John Vincent about a project role but “Within two days, it turned into a permanent role,” he said.

According to Marco Reick, the industry is facing ‘significant headwinds’. “As a sector, the supply in the pipeline of people is our biggest challenge. We saw a small decline in applications after the Brexit vote, but that quickly flattened out. Regardless, we are concentrating on retention. We’ve found there are many people leaving the UK and their jobs in hospitality to head back to their homes in Europe and this is worrying. The government stating that those already here can stay has given us and our hard working team members some reassurance, for now. But what happens after Brexit in terms of our future talent pipeline remains a mystery, we need much better answers from the government.”

Marco is pleased with what he and his team have achieved so far. “At Leon, it’s our mission to enable people to eat well and to live well,” he said. “It’s true for customers, but just as true for our team members.” Naturally, all Leon employees get their lunch and dinner free, but Rewards and Benefits go way beyond that. “We support our team members in ways they probably couldn’t imagine. We have a well-being team. We take this very seriously, we want everybody who works at Leon to be physically fit and active and we want them to have a balanced life. We have regular events throughout the year, we have running clubs, sports days, well-being days in East Sussex where we have different activities available, therapies, massages, reflexology etc.” Also available to all employees is Leon’s wellbeing space known as The Kwoon; an all-day gym where staff can drop in and take training sessions free of charge, and although there are professional instructors, The Kwoon is primarily for Leon team members by Leon team members. Marco explains, “Whatever talent you might have, we try to capture that and allow you to share that talent with other team members. we want you to express yourself. There might be a barista in one of our restaurants who may also be a qualified yoga instructor. We encourage that person to teach their class in our wellbeing space. Your colleagues get a lesson for free and you get paid for doing it.” Every month there are up to 200 Leon team members using The Kwoon.  It’s been a huge success, but it doesn’t end there.

When Leon opened their Shaftesbury Avenue restaurant, deep in the heart of London’s theatre district, they wanted to fit in with the neighbourhood. “We thought, let’s make it a musical theatre-themed restaurant and let’s make our team members the stars. At certain times of day, songs are performed live by the team,” Marco can’t help but smile as he explains. “They are all singers, some are musicals singers, some are in bands, some are session singers. The thing that brings them together is that they all need to pay the bills. They could work as a barista or a waiter anywhere. The thing that Leon offers is the chance to do that – and sing.” All team members in the Shaftesbury Avenue restaurant wear shirts with their names on their backs “just in case a West End Producer pops in for lunch.” Leon liaises with the local theatre community and wants their staff to be discovered, “staff turnover for that restaurant is taken out of the equation,” Marco said, “but we find that our team members keep coming back to us after having left to do a show”.

Marco Reick is excited about this year’s People Awards. He is passionate about the hospitality industry and is pleased that the awards are there. “They act as a forum,” he said “where all the great work that hospitality employers are doing can be showcased. I’m looking forward to seeing entries from companies that do things differently, employers who put people first. We need innovation in order to survive as an industry, but innovation needs to be sustainable. I believe that all the entries can act to attract new blood, new talent to hospitality, and we need it now more than ever.”

Entries for the 2017 People Awards will close on July 10th. Judging will take place on July 19th with the shortlist announced soon after. The glamorous awards evening happens on October 5th at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, tables are available now. Contact for more details.

Calling all Hospitality Employers! People Awards deadline extended

We’re delighted to say that the deadline for entries for the 2017 People Awards has been extended to July 10th, so you have a few extra days to showcase your exciting, innovative and successful initiatives and programmes in recruiting, retaining and developing top talent.

Our People Awards celebrate your hard work and ingenuity and are a perfect way to ensure your teams get the recognition they deserve.

Here’s what some of our 2016 winners had to say about the awards:

“We are so excited to have been recognised for such a prestigious award through It’s been very uplifting for our teams to know that the hard work we do is valued so highly both within and outside of our organisation.”

Dawn Vermeire, HR Director, Jumeirah Hotels. Winner of People Awards 2016 Rewards & Benefits category:

“We feel extremely honoured and excited that we have been recognised by the Catering and Hospitality Industry. We are oozing with pride.”

Geraldine McCormick, HR Advisor for Commercial Operations, National Theatre. Winner of People Awards 2016 On-Boarding category.

“Honestly, we’re over the moon. This award is testament to the effort and commitment of so many team members.”

Brian Trollip, Operations Director, Dishoom. Winner of People Awards 2016 Learning & Development category.

Entry is free and simple to complete online. There are 13 categories and you can enter as many you wish. Entries are welcomed from all UK hospitality employers from hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars and food service providers.

If you’ve made an exciting breakthrough in your recruitment process, we look forward to hearing from you.

Enter now.


Culture, branding and personality

Byron Hamburgers serve up an impressive win

Calling all hospitality employers! Entries for the 2017 People Awards close on July 3rd so don’t miss out. Start making a noise about the amazing work that you’re doing in the recruitment, development and retention of your incredible workforce.

We spoke to Louise Moneypenny from Byron Hamburgers about their well-deserved win in 2016.

“Culture is extremely important to us at Byron,” said Louise Moneypenny, Recruitment and Talent Manager at Byron. “We are a high culture business where our USP is underpinned by our people and the service they offer.”

As recruiting for personality and culture increasingly becomes the norm, it’s crucial that hospitality employers understand just what this should entail. It’s important to recognise the company culture and how talent will fit and excel within it. Top employers need to discover, identify and effectively communicate their employer brand as a reflection of their values.

Byron Hamburgers, the popular high street chain, were the proud winners of Employer Brand Campaign at the 2016 People Awards. In the past year, the company has made a concerted effort to spread their strong sense of culture right throughout the business. As a fast growing company, it was essential to Byron that they didn’t dilute their cultural intensity by bringing on board people who didn’t 100% buy into their ethos. “The first thing we did was listen,” Louise recalls. “Our People Director conducted focus groups across all levels of the business to really understand what our culture is. It became clear very quickly that it is our culture that makes Byron special and we wanted to share this externally through our employer brand campaign.”

To facilitate their growth plans, Byron had to recruit 220 managers over two years. Their application rates were low and only 89% of their management positions were filled. “Our employee churn was increasing and we had GM vacancies in our flagship restaurants,” Louise explained. “When the new People Director and Recruitment Manager arrived they had to act quickly and we developed an employer branding strategy that covered identifying the top 5 levers of our culture, design recruitment collateral to promote all the great elements of our culture and to develop an internal people plan to reinforce our culture and reengage our teams.”

Also as a result of focus groups, the company defined their ‘Five Byron Behaviours’: Charisma, Detail, Drive, Resilience, and Commerciality. With these behaviours in place, Byron reviewed their recruitment process and created new, structured interview scripts based what they discovered. They also re-structured the process from telephone interview, assessment through to trial.

“We reviewed our job adverts in terms of look, feel and content,” said Louise Moneypenny. “Our adverts did not sell the people and culture side of Byron that our own people felt so strongly about.” They also created new Byron adverts selling the people and fun side of the business.

Byron worked with a creative agency to create their new employer brand. This was based on USPs derived from the focus groups. These involved a better on-boarding process and improved rewards and benefits for employees. Initiatives that were put into place included hiring for behaviour as opposed to skills, a new three day induction programme, free meals for those on shift as well as 50% off for employees when dining with family and friends. Also run out across the company was a programme where the CEO of Byron made himself available to listen to staff. Every quarter, General Managers are invited for dinner with the CEO where concerns can be raised and questions are answers. Likewise for chefs within the company, The Head of Food held similar evenings. The exciting ‘Byron on the Beach’ programme has proved popular, where managers are invited on company funded trips away. Last year, 105 Byron employees went to Barcelona. Importantly, Byron wishes to protect its culture and has been working hard to encourage internal progression throughout the company.

Within the past year, Byron has opened 18 new restaurants and recruited 128 new managers with their total management headcount increasing from 89% to 104%. New and improved job advertising has seen a rise in applications, and 90-day staff turnover has fallen from 45% to 25%. In their last staff survey, 82% of those taking part stated that life had become better at the company.

On winning the award for Employer Brand Campaign, Louise Moneypenny said, “It is amazing to get recognised for the work and results that we have delivered in this area over the last 2 years. Winning this award is also a great way to promote Byron with potential new candidates.”

If you want to be recognised as one of the very best hospitality employers in the UK, get those entries for the 2017 People Awards into us now.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at


Getting a Firmdale grip on Candidate Experience


With an impressive increase in candidate on-boarding and employee retention, Firmdale Hotels won the Candidate Experience award at the 2016 People Awards. “Winning this award has really changed things for us,” said Jessica Berry, Head of Talent at Firmdale Hotels. “We’ve had other companies knocking on our door asking what we’re doing right. We’ve been asked to talk at conferences about our programmes. We shout about our win in all our communications. It’s been a wonderful year.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards is free and easy to complete online. Deadline for entries is 3rd July 2017.

Firmdale Hotels told us more about their winning approach…

“Candidate no-show” is a constant and costly pain for hospitality employers. Applicants dropping out before interview, or accepting a role then failing to turn up on day one is an all too common occurrence.

So, one of the biggest challenges facing any recruitment team is positively engaging with talent from application to on-boarding and beyond. In a skills-short, candidate led market, hospitality employers who can connect with top candidates throughout the process will engage and retain them, before their competitors. By focusing on employer branding, strong use of social channels and a close look at their hiring and on-boarding processes, Firmdale Hotels achieved exciting results.

The challenges Firmdale faced were recruiting in a competitive market, promoting the company name to a wider talent pool and engaging people from the start is what Firmdale is all about. “You may have somebody amazing in front of you,” Jessica explained, “but two days later they get a call from a competitor with another job offer. We wanted to engage with this talent and make them excited about working with us from the very beginning. There is immense competition out there; we’re all fighting for the same great people. Having a brand that people can really buy into and engage with is super-important.”

Creating that strong brand awareness is an important first step in recruitment. “We feel it’s important to align Firmdale’s external brand with our internal one.” Jessica said. Firmdale created the ‘Love What You Do’ campaign which worked to highlight their employer brand. An online video was created in which several Firmdale employees were interviewed to showcase life at the company. The initial video was so popular that it took on a life of its own and served to highlight Firmdale’s five values: Relationships, enthusiasm, attention to detail, resilience and passion. ‘Love What You Do’ has become the core of their recruitment strategy. The video is displayed on Firmdale’s adverts, social channels and their careers website.

To reduce the percentage of candidates who drop out after accepting roles, but before induction and on-boarding, Firmdale endeavoured to increase engagement from the beginning. They redesigned their People and Development office to reflect a Firmdale suite complete with bespoke mannequin to create a ‘Firmdale first impression’.

The recruitment team encouraged the Department Heads themselves to make the call offering successful candidates work, thus building a connection with a new Manager from the very beginning. What is on offer at Firmdale, from its benefits, perks, incentives to the rewards and recognition schemes are communicated at the interview stage with the In-house Recruitment team and the Head of Department on site. Managers also now get in touch with new starters to personally welcome them to the team and arrange their uniform ready for their first day in the department.

Firmdale’s company induction is an immersive experience and is held within one of the Firmdale hotels. The day includes lunch, a show-around, introduction to the culture and values of the company, an explanation of rewards & benefits and a look at the history of Firmdale. The first induction day ends with a one-to-one meeting to discuss any questions and to complete new starter information with a member of the People and Development team.

Firmdale is passionate about building and developing their teams, as Jessica Berry explains, “Our Learning Directory, which is accessible from day one for all team members, details over 100 courses. There are 10 sections, including operational skills and knowledge, service skills, supervisor skills, management development programmes and people management. Last year we launched a Firmdale English language programme for those team members with English as a second language this year developed the programme to provide the team with an accredited language qualification.”

There are 26 Firmdale Managers who deliver departmental inductions for Concierge, Front Office, Housekeeping and Food & Beverage. In addition, 60 department trainers across the group complete new starters’ induction checklists to ensure they are set up for success and receive a quarterly bonus to recognise the impact of their on-job training. The induction process continues throughout the first three months and each inductee is paired with an on-shift buddy. There are four week and three month reviews, providing open and constructive conversations to ensure that they are fully equipped in their roles.

The results have been impressive. On average 80% of candidates seen by in-house recruiters were offered roles by the hotels, last year 96% of those offered roles attended induction and on-boarding with 87% retention year 2015-16. Jessica said that candidate reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. She said, “We are really proud to hear ‘Love What You Do’ being used in conversation and hash-tagged. This has come from the heart of Firmdale’s culture and incorporating our values just shows how much it is the focus of what we do. Being perceived as a great place to work has enhanced our recruitment process and probably made recruiting a little bit easier.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards couldn’t be easier. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Make sure your entries reach us by 3rd July 2017. The shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at




In-House Recruitment takes centre stage

We speak to Gabriela Gandolfini at the National Theatre

Hospitality employers! Have you launched a programme that boosts your recruitment strategy? Super-charged your learning & development offering? Helped you retain more amazing talent than ever before? Does your recruitment team deserve to be recognised for their success in recruitment, retention and development?

Entries for the 2017 People Awards  are open until July 3rd so now’s the time to shout about your achievements! We want to hear from all employers across this incredible sector. Entry is free and simple to complete online.

Take a look at the winner of our In-House Recruitment Team award in 2016…

Our People Awards celebrate the best hospitality employers in the UK, and to be the best takes a lot of grit and determination. That’s especially true if you’re part of an organisation not known for a hospitality offering.

The National Theatre was the proud winner of the In-House Recruitment Team award at the 2016 People Awards. The implementation of their forward-looking initiatives was nothing short of inspiring.

Gabriela Gandolfini, Head of Audience Experience at the National Theatre is understandably proud of their achievements. “We work for Commercial Operations, which is a fast-moving department with a diverse offering.” The National Theatre boasts three restaurants, each of a different style, an Espresso Bar, a Café, pop-up food and drink venues, a bookshop and more. “And not to forget that all this happens within a theatre,” says Gabriela, “which also happens to be the best theatre in the world, in our opinion! Everything we do must match the quality of what is on stage and our customer service and offering must uphold this world class reputation.”

Wanting to achieve a better consistency and a more engaging recruitment process for candidates, one of the In-House Recruitment team’s main objectives was to reorganise the recruitment of all staff. The Theatre holds regular open days for recruiting new members of the team. These open days can see as many as 500 candidates being seen in seven hours. All candidates are guaranteed an interview after a short registration process. Interviews last approximately 10 minutes and all questions give those with no previous experience an equal chance to get through to the next round.

“We’re passionate about achieving the National Theatre’s overall Diversity targets and that takes a lot of careful thought.” Gabriela explains, “All that starts with attracting and hiring the right people for the job, people who share our values and are enthusiastic about delivering our objectives. We place a lot of focus on this and a recruitment team that understands who those individuals are and is able to respond quickly to fast turn overs and unexpected situations is key to the success of the department.”

In encouraging applications from under-represented groups, NT facilitates the progression of candidates through each stage of the recruitment process. This gives candidates with a learning disability a much better experience and one which is suited to them as an individual. NT continues to work with Action on Disability and The Camden Society and have completed a number of work trials in conjunction with them. NT had successfully appointed 12 staff through their partner groups by this time last year, and many more since. Six which work in the House Management Team, one in Kitchen, one in Goods-In, one in Sandwich Preparation, three in the Terrace Restaurant and one in the staff Canteen.

In describing the NT Recruitment Team, Gabriela says, “We are a small team considering there are 500 people in the department, so between us we do all the recruitment, learning, rota scheduling, payroll, HR support and more for all those people.  The trick is to ensure we are all specialists and knowledgeable in our own areas, but also generalists so we can truly work as a team and help each other and everyone who comes through the door.  This comes with a strong sense of purpose. Each of us in the team is really passionate about the job and we really do it out of love. We wouldn’t let each other down and this sense of team work hopefully comes across in the work we do.”

Through their sustained efforts, the National Theatre has ensured the sustainability of their workforce by demonstrating a strong commitment it. They have also made sure that there continues to be high levels of staff mobility and performance management and good recruitment practices as a constructive process. Their new programmes, including their Recruitment Days, have led to a better developed, better utilised and more effective workforce, and they have witnessed an increase in sales conversion rates for some areas of up to 55%. Added to this, Gabriela mentioned, “Our retention rate is approximately 75% per annum, which is great considering 55% of the workforce is casual.”

On winning the 2016 People Award for In-House Recruitment Team, Gabriela said, “We cried! The National Theatre is a wonderful place to visit and to work and we are so passionate about working here. Our Catering offering often goes under recognised in the hospitality sector mainly because we are primarily a theatre. When we won the awards last year we felt incredibly proud to be able to showcase some of the other work we do here at the NT.  We are entering again this year in some new categories and we are incredibly excited about it!”

Your team deserves its time in the spotlight. If like the National Theatre, you have a recruitment initiative that you would like to showcase, enter now.

Entering the 2017 People Awards is simple. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Make sure your entries reach us by 3rd July 2017. The shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at




Communication, creativity and reliability

Jumeirah on putting the ‘H’ in HR

There are always challenges facing employers. Attracting top talent, retaining that talent and developing the skills of employees are just some of the issues which require constant review. Just because your recruitment strategy was fruitful for one season, doesn’t mean it will continue to be so. The demands of your workforce will change and you need to change with them.

One employer who understands this need to adapt is Jumeirah London. Already having walked away with the Rewards & Benefits accolade at the 2016 People Awards, Jumeirah London picked up the double with a more than impressive showing, to win the award for HR Team.

With three properties in London, culture plays a big part in life at Jumeirah and recruitment is always undertaken with this in mind. Dawn Vermeire, Director of Human Resources at Jumeirah said, “We see the importance of hiring the right people into our organisation, that are aligned with the culture of our organisation, particularly our Hallmarks which are three core behaviours expected of all colleagues; our Guiding Principles, six behaviours that guide colleagues in their journey with Jumeirah and our Vision, the identity and mission of Jumeirah.”

In a skills-short market, working hard to maximise retention of talent is as important now as it’s ever been. “We need to ensure we retain our motivated, engaged and value-adding talent,” said Dawn. “In an employment market in which there is high competition amongst our competitors for top talent, retention can be achieved to a large extent by ensuring our workforce are engaged. We see our role in HR as critical to supporting the business with this objective, and providing the support our line managers require.”

As part of their recruitment process, Jumeirah’s HR Team ensured effective selection of candidates by compiling bespoke competency based interview questions that match role requirements and Jumeirah culture. Once offered, candidates are sent a personalised email from the hotel GM to welcome them. Jumeirah have also written and delivered workshops to management, thus ensuring that Hiring Managers all follow this process. In addition, Jumeirah conducts Quarterly HR meetings where the London HR team can identify current roles that can be filled through internal colleagues or through links within their networks, formalising this process. Similarly, the HR VP conducts regular calls with international HR Directors within the company to identify where talent from European properties can be relocated.

Dawn Vermeire feels that the recruitment and development of a multi-skilled workforce is a win-win for both colleagues and business. “Colleagues are able to learn and grow in their roles, whilst offering flexibility that provides improved service and efficiencies. Additionally our staff turnover has reduced as we are able to retain these engaged colleagues, motivated by growth opportunities.” Jumeirah works hard to create a family feel at the workplace. “We play a key role in Internal Communications, particularly around the sharing of our wider business objectives. We feel that communication, creativity and reliability are the elements that make a great HR Team.”

Over the last 12 months, across their London properties, Jumeirah have made 13 appointments through their internal networking programme with four of these being at Management level helping with a significant recruitment cost saving. There have also been 84 internal promotions, which accounts for 16% of the company’s workforce.

In 2015, 109 Jumeirah employees celebrated Long Service. The average length of service is six years, which is two years above the national average. This retention of top talent plays a huge part in the delivery of the company’s guest service and high scores in satisfaction surveys. In internal employee surveys, 94% “tell others great things about working at Jumeirah”, which is an increase of 1% year on year.  85% at Jumeirah Carlton Towers and 95% at Jumeirah Lowdes Hotel said that “My Manager recognises my efforts and results” and 94% of colleagues said that “Jumeirah is a socially and environmentally responsible employer.”

On winning the HR Team award, Dawn Vermeire said, “We are all very creative individuals who seek to do things differently in HR and this win has made us all extremely proud and excited about the future.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards is simple. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Make sure your entries reach us by 3rd July 2017. The shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. 

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at



“It’s not just a summer job”: Changing Perceptions at the BHA Summit


If there was one key learning from this year’s BHA Summit, it was that the UK hospitality industry needs to change its image in the eyes of jobseekers and young people as a place to develop a fulfilling and lasting career. ‘Perception’ was the word of the day.

On June 6th, the British Hospitality Association held its annual summit at The Grand Connaught Rooms, London where over 500 delegates from the world of hospitality gathered to talk, network and listen to top industry professionals as they discussed the challenges facing the sector.

Among the speakers were Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive, BHA;Nick Varney, Chairman, BHA; Laurie Nicol, COO, De Vere; Ben Twynam Head of Practice, Heidrick & Struggles; Mike Saul, MD Hospitality & Leisure Team, Barclays and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Strictly sensation, Ed Balls.

Of particular interest to hospitality employers were two fascinating discussion panels. George Vezza, MD at Nestle Professional UK & Ireland hosted a session on ‘Inspiring the Future Workforce’, focused on what the industry can do collectively to make hospitality careers more appealing to a younger generation. Natalie Cramp from the Careers Enterprise Company believes that employers need to tell their stories better and improve brand awareness from the get-go, helping those about to leave school to realise that hospitality is not simply a weekend or a holiday job.

Natalie also felt that giving young people the room to grow in the job will go a long way in increasing retention.

Also taking part in this discussion was Andrew Parkinson, Operations Director at Liverpool Football Club. Last year, The Reds completed the first phase of their expansion project, increasing capacity at Anfield by 8,500. As a result Liverpool’s hospitality offering has had to step-up. Their recruitment policy has focused less on skills and more on personality, embracing the notion that if culture comes first, the rest will follow. Likewise, Nikki Kelly, Employment and Skills Manager at the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation stated that with the new White Hart Lane currently under construction, Spurs hospitality recruitment will concentrate on their strong employer brand. Recruiting from the local community is key. A strong push on culture can speak volumes to the hearts and minds of young people.

The day ended with The Big Debate, hosted by Debate Mate. Debate Mate is an educational charity that employs university students to run after-school debating clubs in areas of high child poverty around the world. Three young debaters argued against industry professionals, the subject being ‘Hospitality is Just a Holiday Job’. Familiar concerns were raised, namely that young people simply do not understand that hospitality is a viable career option. In schools, not enough is being done to promote hospitality jobs. It isn’t seen as a ‘dream job’ and it is felt that it’s the industry’s duty to reach out with more inventive methods to impress upon school leavers and graduates that hospitality can be as strong a career as one in law, medicine or the creative industries.

By the same token, it was noted during the debate that success in hospitality can come from the sheer nature of the work, in that many current industry high-flyers started at the bottom and worked their way up, learning all the way. Unlike many career choices, responsibility can come quickly in hospitality and this can be attractive to those now entering the world of work. However, it was agreed that much more needs to be done with regards to stronger on-boarding programmes and creating a candidate experience that breeds retention.

In her closing remarks, Ufi Ibrahim left delegates with the results of a recent survey where hospitality businesses were asked to list key words in order of relevance and importance to them. They said:

  1. A great place to work    
  2. People friendly
  3. Exciting
  4. Low Skilled
  5. Poor Reputation
However, when the same was asked of consumers and young people, the results give employers a lot to think about:


  1. People friendly
  2. Poor Reputation
  3. Low Skilled
  4. Exciting
  5. A great place to work

The BHA Summit provided a day of fascinating insight that underlined the challenges the hospitality industry faces in attracting and retaining talent. In a sector characterised by acute skills shortage, hospitality employers can and should take the lead in attracting the talent the whole industry desperately needs. By actively promoting themselves as employers of choice, and showcasing the exciting and rewarding careers they offer, they will in turn benefit the whole industry.

It’s a notion that’s been discussed at industry forums for decades, but now more than ever hospitality employers who wish to meet their demand for skills must actively focus on creating the supply. After all, if not now, then when?

Supporting Emerging Talent


Flying High! Careers are taking off at Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5

In the current climate of skills shortages within the hospitality industry, it’s vital that employers create talent pools and pathways that can secure their future requirements. Nurturing emerging talent equals a positive impact on employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, not to mention savings on recruitment costs. However, what about the view from the other side of this equation? What about the benefits for your candidates? In the best circumstances, it can enrich their lives in ways you may never have even considered.

In October 2016, Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5 won the Emerging Talent Initiative award at the 2016 People Awards. Their work developing the skills of young people, fresh to the world of work, has been truly inspirational.

In 2012, the Department of Health’s Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework found that only 7% of adults with learning disabilities were in some form of paid employment. It is estimated that 65% of people with learning disabilities would like a paid job.

In the hospitality industry there are of course many entry level positions that are subject to regular turnover, or are very hard to fill, and these jobs may well be suitable for young people with learning difficulties. The tasks and skills required can be easily broken down for training purposes and once learned, can be carried out with minimal supervision.

In conjunction with Project SEARCH, a US-based educational programme, Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5 has been fully training young people with learning difficulties and employing them, not just within the five-star property, but with other local hospitality employers. Caroline Lowe, Director of Human Resources explains, “Hilton T5 were approached by another Hilton hotel in the US who had launched a Project Search scheme there, and wanted to link us up with the Project SEARCH partners to explore to opportunity for a UK project. Hilton T5 is the first hotel in the UK and Europe with this initiative.”

For the past three years, Hilton T5, has been enrolling 12 students per academic year. Aged between 18 and 25, and with a variety of learning disabilities including autism, Downs Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome, these young people have been attending classes in a specially converted classroom at Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5. They have a full time job tutor, Job Coach / Job Development Planner and Learning Support Assistant. The course is both academic and an internship and consists of three rotations through specific departments with continual feedback and support. The goal for each intern is full time, paid employment, and support is given at the end of the programme to help find that employment. Students also study for an OCN qualification in Hospitality and functional skills in Maths and English. The programme is supported by key partners, Ealing Mencap, Ealing Hammersmith & West London College and the London Borough of Ealing.

Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5 has developed Job Development strategies and has contact with local employers including ISS Service who are responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of Heathrow Airport Terminals, plus Harrisons Catering and other Hilton hotels to share the benefits of employing young people with special needs. They are also developing and sustaining long term partnerships with these employers to have an ongoing pipeline of employment opportunities at the end of each internship year.

For employers, the benefits of this programme are many; access to a new and diverse talent stream with transferable skills that match employer’s needs with high performance and retention in some high-turnover or hard-to-fill posts. It creates employees who are highly committed, loyal and proven to be reliable. Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 5 has found that their employees with disabilities can serve as ‘role models’ for customers and this is well-reflected in satisfaction surveys.

As for the interns themselves, their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and last year alone there was a 100% completion of the course rate with five interns gaining paid employment before the end of the course.

On winning the Emerging Talent award, Caroline Lowe said, “We are proud and honoured to be recognised for this award. Project SEARCH is a successful partnership between key partners and Hilton T5. Our priority and focus is to create opportunities and a future in paid employment for young people with special needs, who previously have had few options within paid employment.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards is simple. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Make sure your entries reach us by 3rd July 2017. The shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

Entries are still being accepted for this year’s People Awards which were created to showcase and celebrate the hard work of employers and recruiters in the field of hospitality recruitment, development and retention.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at


Employer innovation that benefits the whole industry

We talk to Jessica Berry, Talent Manager of Firmdale Hotels and judge of the 2017 People Awards

“The recruitment process can be challenging. It’s not always seen as the most glamorous of roles within hospitality, but it’s a vital part of running hotels. All employers want to hire the right people and you have get that right from the very beginning.”

Jessica Berry, Talent Manager of Firmdale Hotels and one of our 2017 People Awards judges, feels that to attract top talent and to be recognised as a great place to work, “You need to enter People Awards.”

There is now one month left to enter the 2017 People Awards. Once again, we have a stellar array of over 40 industry experts and innovators in our judging panels, many winners in their own right. Last year, Firmdale Hotels proudly accepted our People Award for Candidate Experience.

We caught up with Jessica to understand more about her career in hospitality and what she thinks matters when it comes to innovation in recruitment.

Jessica Berry hails from Brisbane, Australia and originally studied Regional and Town Planning. Disenchanted with this career path, she landed a job at the 5-Star South Seas Island resort in Florida. Within a couple of months, she was running Conferences and Banqueting. Jessica fell in love with the world of hotels and was soon made the resort’s Wedding Co-ordinator. Upon her return to Australia, she continued to work in four and five-star hotels and by this time had moved into a sales role. She was gaining a solid grounding in hotel operations and in 2012, whilst at Sofitel, Jessica was offered the role of Events Manager at their hotel in St. James’, London. “I had the opportunity to run the Olympics Programme at the hotel,” Jessica said. “It was challenging, but really rewarding.”

Then came a turning point in her career. Jessica took stock and looked at what she really wanted to do; “I asked myself, what part of my job am I enjoying the most? And I decided it was recruitment.” After a spell at recruitment agencies, Jessica was contacted by Firmdale Hotels who were looking for a Talent Manager, somebody who was experienced in recruitment, but with a hotel background. “I was familiar with Firmdale as a brand, so I jumped at the chance.” Jessica has been with Firmdale Hotels now for three years and is loving every minute.

Jessica is looking forward to being a judge for the 2017 People Awards. “If you’re looking for a job in hospitality, you go to,” she said. “They are the leaders. If you’re looking for recognition of who does hospitality recruitment well, you look at People Awards. They’re unique in that they reward all stages of recruitment including induction and training in hospitality, and that’s special. Hospitality can be quite different to other sectors, so it’s nice to be acknowledged in this way.”

When judging this year’s awards, Jessica will be looking for evidence of successful innovation. “Employers who think outside the box,” she said, “programmes that have been implemented based on feedback from your team.” She laughed when she admitted to ‘loving a statistic’. “I love to see positive success stories with the statistics to back it up. Everybody loves a before-and-after tale!”

Jessica would encourage all hospitality employers to get involved with the 2017 People Awards. “It’s a real badge of honour to Firmdale Hotels to have won an award last year. We shout about it. We’re all competing in the same market, but an initiative that stands out from the competition can not only benefit you, it can benefit the whole industry. We all want candidates to have a great experience, but no matter what success we have, we have to improve. Things change and we have to keep challenging ourselves.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards couldn’t be easier. It’s free to enter and you can choose as many of our 13 categories as you wish to showcase your successes.  Entries close on Monday 3rd July 2017 and the shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at


Durham Leads the Way



Leadership in hospitality Recruitment, Development and Retention

In terms of quality and service, the UK hospitality industry has a lot of which to be proud. Away from our world class restaurants and hotels, however, there are many institutions which provide incredible food service and an outstanding work environment for employees. These can include prisons, care homes and educational facilities, establishments which often escape our attention. The 2017 People Awards will celebrate employers from across the hospitality sector – and there’s still time to enter. Entries close on July 2nd and who knows? Maybe your organisation could be celebrating at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge in October, much like Durham University Catering Department did last year.

Durham University Catering offers 26 Cafes across their colleges, employing 500 team members who serve around half a million meals per month to students, commercial guests and VIPs, including royalty from around the world. The pressure is on every day and the need for top talent is constant. Durham, however is not immune to sector-wide problems.

“In line with the industry skills shortage, in recent years, we struggled to fill all catering vacancies and attract sufficient dynamic, talented applicants,” explains Ricky Cohen, Deputy Director of Catering at Durham University. “Job descriptions and person specifications required fundamental review to ensure criteria were both appropriate for the operation and attractive to potential talent. Feedback also suggested that the existing written application and shortlisting process, followed by the very formal panel interview, deterred applicants.”

A rethink of the recruitment process was badly needed. It was felt that induction was disjointed from the actual recruitment process and focused almost entirely on getting new starters on the shop floor as quickly as possible.

“There was no attempt to acclimatise new starters to the university’s working environment or to help them understand the importance of their role and how it fits into the complex organisation that a university is.”

Induction also failed to set expectations nor did it communicate a purpose or strategy. It also didn’t provide new team members with the correct level of information needed to become engaged with the catering department.

It was decided to streamline the whole system. The catering team worked in collaboration with other key university stakeholders to develop a new, integrated recruitment, induction and development process. The department also had to combat a perception that working at Durham University Catering Department meant being ‘a dinner lady’, when nothing could be further from the truth. A departmental video was developed to provide visual insight into ‘what they actually do’. The video also helped applicants understand the department’s purpose, strategy and values before deciding whether to join the team.

In a controversial move, the written application shortlisting process for entry level vacancies was completely removed in order to increase the amount of talent at interview stage. No one had ever done this at the University and it was initially greeted with trepidation from certain sections.

The next bold step was to replace the formal panel style interview with a ‘speed dating’ style interview process, during which up to 42 applicants moved around mini management panels, where positive behaviour is scored using standard questions and a simple work related tasks. Again effective communication and various trials were required to convince key stakeholders of what they viewed as a radical approach.

Accordingly, job descriptions and personal specifications were developed with a reduced focus on qualifications and experience and a greater focus towards positive behavioural indicators. This was linked directly to Durham University’s behavioural framework, which they named ‘Realising Your Potential’. Ricky Cohen said, “The ‘Realising Your Potential’ approach is essentially a framework which helps clarify the behaviours required to enable all team members to do just that – realise their own potential; it’s simple, when individuals realise their own capabilities, the whole department benefits.”

Developing talent is also crucial to Durham’s new structure. “We continually try to be creative to attract, support, develop and retain talent, including financially supporting chef secondments to Michelin Star and award-winning establishments, for example at Le Manoir aux QuatSaisons,” explains Ricky Cohen. “The long-term plan is to formalise this into development partnerships where individuals get the benefit of improving their skills. In return, the business gets free labour. We also recently delivered an international food exploration trip to Teikyo University, Tokyo.”

With all this hard and innovative work, it may come as no surprise that Durham University Catering Department won the 2016 People Award for Leadership in Recruitment, Retention and Development. Ricky Cohen said that the department was thrilled with their success, “Our current and future success rests with our team of individuals who are talented, engaged and trained to deliver excellence. National recognition has given us confidence to continue to be creative with recruitment, retention and development.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards couldn’t be easier. There are 13 categories. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Entries close on 2nd July 2017 and the shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

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