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Kellie Rixon, MBE – What happens next?

In September, Kellie Rixon, MBE, becomes Chair of the Institute of Hospitality. caught up with Kellie during a recent visit to Scotland to find out about her plans for the Institute and ‘what happens next?'

Kellie Rixon has worked her way up through the hospitality ranks, doing everything from front of house, running pubs, heading up learning and development teams and owning her hospitality consultancy, Rixon Associates.  She’s driven, passionate, enthusiastic and fun.

‘I’m not a good passenger’

We started by asking Kellie about her recent appointment. “I’ve been a Fellow of the Institute since 2012. For me, it was important to contribute to our industry. I joined the supervisory board to get involved with something that will help shape the future of the Institute.”

Kellie continued, “When the wonderful Robin Sheppard FIH decided to step down I was delighted to be voted the new chair. I’m not a good passenger. I like change. I like shaking things up, and I’m certainly not here to make up the numbers.”

Industry resilience

Kellie has been busier than ever during lockdown helping hospitality businesses to manage the organisational changes COVID19 presented.

Looking ahead, how does she see the Institute of Hospitality (IoH), and the hospitality sector, moving forward?  “From the Institute’s perspective, we are looking at the medium to long term, but we do have an immediate opportunity to help people with career transitions.  Hospitality as a whole has been decimated and that is an understatement. COVID19 has brought out the resilience of the industry and the Institute and the innovation and ingenuity of hospitality people.”

Survival of the fittest takes tenacity and innovation

“In the short term we have had to rethink the model for every business I’ve been engaged with. We’ve gone from, ‘this is our operating model, and this is how we make money’ to ‘this is all we can afford to spend, how do we make sure we survive’. In the short to medium term we’re going to have leaner, more focused hospitality businesses, less process-driven, that carry forward the goodwill that has been generated during lockdown.”

“I don’t think it is going to be easy, it is going to be hard work, certainly for the medium term. And, and hopefully in the years to come, we will get to some sort of normality again. Possibly the market was oversaturated so now it’s about ‘survival of the fittest’.”

“It’s been amazing watching the survival instinct kick in. It’s the mother of all invention; it was what hospitality businesses needed to get through lockdown.  Businesses innovated with tenacity, doing takeaways, deliveries, veggie boxes, to prevent them closing permanently.  Hospitality is a formidable industry with amazing people. And when you think about what we deal with on a day to day basis it’s inspiring, and I think we will come out of this stronger than ever.”

Adding value to people and organisations

Whilst the Institute of Hospitality has been in survival mode during lockdown, there have been some amazing successes.  Membership has increased, engagement with the Institute’s webinars has gone up and many people took the time to do some personal and professional development.

This is something the Institute wants to develop further.  “There is an opportunity to diversify, not just what we offer but to do everything the sector needs in this constantly changing landscape,” Kellie continued, “It isn’t just about good people getting better. It’s about adding value to people and organisations, recognising and addressing the skills gaps. Businesses are going to consider every penny that goes through their bank, so the Institute of Hospitality has to make sure that it’s a resource that has value for an individual or organisation.”

Being inclusive

Kellie’s second priority when she takes over the Chair is inclusivity. “We have talked about the perception of the Institute within hospitality. I’m keen to promote an inclusive and diverse membership. We’ve got a great project happening with our younger members, developing a strategy around inclusivity, which is really important to me.”

Engaging the industry

The third strand of Kellie’s plan is about engagement. How and when the IoH engages, and what it brings to the party. Kellie commented, “Engagement is critical, but it’s not about jumping onto every bandwagon.  It’s about having a voice and knowing what our purpose is.

It is also about understanding the great eco-system of organisations that are so important to our industry and how we fit into that.  Our relationship with other organisations has always been important and now more so than ever.”

“I believe that we will see two positive outcomes from COVID19.  We will see hospitality organisations working together to serve a common industry purpose, pooling strengths and resources for the greater good. We are also seeing hospitality being recognised by government for the vital role our industry has in society and the contribution the sector makes to the country’s prosperity and culture.”

Skills for the future

“The next generation of hospitality people have strong values and opinions and as an industry we cannot dismiss what is important to them. Sustainability and the environment matter, linked to health and safety, and the industry will see growth and changes in how sustainability is managed,” Kellie commented. “Soft skills like empathy and care for others have been so important. One of the things I’ve heard most during this time is about people taking care of each other and looking out for each other. And it has lit a fuse of fellowship amongst people, and certainly within our sector.”

“Looking at future strategy, it would be remiss not make sure that soft skills are included. One of the interesting things about the Institute is that we have a fellowship programme. Since COVID19 the word ‘Fellowship’ has more impact.  We have a responsibility as Fellows to not only engage with others, but to think about how can we help the industry and provide support, engagement, advice, and guidance to hospitality people who may be struggling or changing role, or may be coming into a sector which is completely different to when we left it four months ago.”

And what about future talent?

“Thinking about future talent and young people joining our industry, the Institute has to be transparent. What I mean is that as a young person growing up in hospitality it was presented as slightly formal and serious. We’ve got to get over that and make sure that the public face and personality of the Institute is constantly evolving.  In my view we’ve got to make sure that the Institute is seen as approachable and open to all.  That will be a real focus in terms of our strategy moving forward.”

Kellie’s final thoughts on becoming Chair.  “You know, this is a great opportunity. Is it the right time to take over as Chair, in a time of crisis? For me times of crisis are a good time to take over leadership, because we need leadership at times like this. Hopefully, I’m going to provide that leadership, supported by a fantastic executive team. I’m looking forward to what happens next.”

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