Earlier this year, D&D London rolled out My Hospitality World, an exciting initiative incorporating a series of events across their restaurants. The aim was to inspire young people to consider a career in hospitality.
“My Hospitality World came about during a discussion at one of the London South East Colleges employer advisory board meetings, of which I am a member,” explained Jaimie Stewart, former Head of Learning & Development at D&D. “We were talking about the need to improve the profile of the industry so that we could make it more attractive and accessible to young Brits.” That discussion included an idea of running master classes for young people and holding a dedicated week where business and colleges could run events that celebrated and showcased the industry. “Together with the Institute of Hospitality and London South East Colleges we ran a pilot last August. We are now building on that success with a series of events this year,” Jaimie said.
A Great Idea
The idea is quite simple, to showcase the industry by getting potential employees into the businesses. “A few years ago, I hosted some young people from a community kitchen in Bermondsey at Le Pont de la Tour our fine dining French restaurant in Shad Thames,” Jaimie said. “One of the lads said to me that he could never imagine working in a restaurant like this because he ‘wasn’t posh enough and had never eaten in anywhere so grand’. He didn’t think we would employee people with his background so I introduced him to the Head Chef at the time and he realised just how inclusive and open the industry is.”
It struck Jaimie that a lot of young people are not choosing careers in fine dining restaurants because of the bad, and often unjust, reputation the industry has and because they have never visited fine dining restaurants or five-star hotels. “The concept behind My Hospitality World is to open the doors and give people the opportunity and to experience the industry through show-rounds and masterclasses as well as an opportunity to meet some of the great people who work in the sector and be inspired by their career stories,” He said.
For this year’s My Hospitality World D&D ran a Flambé masterclass attended by 15 young people. “The aim was to showcase some of the classical front of house skills and demonstrate that there is a lot more to being a waiter than just carrying plates,” Jaimie said. “It gave us the opportunity to talk about our front of house apprenticeships whilst tucking into some tasty crepes suzette and hot chocolate. We also showcased our commis chef apprenticeships which included our version of the omelette challenge with the prize of dinner at Paternoster Chop House which is the restaurant from TVs First Dates. We also held a Q&A session with two of our leading female chefs aimed at inspiring young women to become chefs which tied in with our International Women’s Day celebrations.”
In addition D&D also invited students from London South East Colleges to take over the lunch service at Blueprint café. “The idea was to highlight the need for industry to work more closely with schools and colleges to ensure young people can make transition from education into employment successfully,” said Jaimie. “It also gave the students a taste of what it is like to work in a London restaurant. The students designed the set menu and cooked and ran service under the eye of the Head Chef and General Manager.”
The Thrill of Hospitality
For the last three years D&D London has worked closely with the charity Inspire to offer young Londoners aged between 15-18 the opportunity to complete work experience with them. “So far, we have had about 200 young people from different schools come in and do between one to two weeks work experience,” explained Jaimie. “It’s a great way for us to give young people the chance to see the thrill of working in a busy London kitchen. A couple of them have even gone onto to become apprentices with us.”
Jaimie feels that Hospitality is key not just to the success of London as a global city but also to the UK economy. “The industry creates £130bn in economic activity, he said. “We employee more people than the financial service industry and yet we are in the grip of a skills shortage which will only be made worse if the government persist with their current post Brexit migration agenda and the press continue to paint the industry in a negative light.”
Jaimie says the industry has to act and act fast. “We need to get young people to see hospitality as a career of choice if we are to start filling that gap. There is no point moaning about it. It’s up to us to reach out to them rather than wait for them to come to us and give them a reason to choose us as a career,” he said.