BaxterStorey operates in 625 locations across the UK, Ireland and Europe, specialising in in-house catering for a variety of clients across sectors including retail, banking, and manufacturing. Its offer is simple: fresh locally sourced, good food made by talented well-trained teams. Following a challenging period for the hospitality industry, with restrictions suffocating revenues across the country, BaxterStorey’s Chief Executive Officer Ronan Harte discusses the importance of recruiting and upskilling to equip the hospitality and catering sector in its recovery.
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is experiencing a skills shortage, which in turn is presenting new challenges regarding recruitment – with three in ten* hospitality businesses currently finding vacancies difficult to fill. It’s a tough climate with no apparent short-term solution, making it vital our industry continues to push ahead with mass recruitment, to aid in its recovery.
Investment is essential to address the skills gap that will become even more apparent now that restrictions are beginning to ease again. The sector is resilient, and we have learnt a lot from the past two years, in particular, seeing how businesses bounce back. A confident approach to building back faster and stronger requires an equally bold recruitment strategy, which promotes a more diverse workforce – from brilliant chefs and baristas to those working behind the scenes in the supply chain, sustainability and training.
Rebuilding a diverse workforce
The pre-existing skills gap has only grown over the course of the pandemic. To rebuild our workforce and attract more people into hospitality, we have a big challenge in making our sector more appealing to young people by promoting the career opportunities within the industry.
Over the years, hospitality has suffered with perceptions of poor pay and poor working hours and often little is known about the opportunities such a career can provide. To aid the industry’s recovery, we must look at how we promote a more diverse workforce.
For BaxterStorey, this means proactively reaching out to a wider range of prospective candidates to highlight roles in hospitality that people might not be aware of, such as project management, sales or marketing – whether that’s by taking part in jobs fairs, or by working closely with other organisations, such as CIPD or ACCA.
It’s also essential we engage with pupils in schools, diversifying where we recruit from, giving young people and their families more insight into career journeys and showcasing training programmes, the variety in workplace locations and the availability of flexible working. The general workforce wants more and demand more from employers, whether that’s flexible working or a wellbeing programme; to more nutritious food menu options. We are seeing this trend within our client locations, and we play a role in supporting them to create a positive workplace culture through our hospitality provisions, as well as looking internally and adopting some of these practices.
Recruiting from within
Apprenticeships have a key role to play in our recruitment strategy and have done for some time. We offer two types of apprenticeship programmes through our award-winning Chef Academy, including Food Service and Professional Cookery, offering training from both a practical and theoretical viewpoint, and focused on leadership and coaching.
These schemes enable us to create a talent pipeline giving us opportunity to recruit from within to address the skills gap, helping us to build a business with highly trained, motivated teams.
Added to attracting new talent to the industry, apprenticeships are a fantastic way of moulding individuals in a way that not only makes them feel enriched by their own achievements but also upskills the workforce and leads to a higher employee retention rate. We have chefs in our business who have joined as sous chefs, progressed through our Chef Academy training programme and are now executive head chefs running a kitchen team of 15 plus.
Empowering existing employees
Whilst there’s no denying the importance of recruitment to address the skills gap, it’s still important for businesses to remember the employees who helped them get to where they are today. Being able to hold onto your best employees is a key factor in determining whether your business will be successful – not to mention, shows potential employees that you’re doing something right.
At BaxterStorey, we create a working environment that supports and empowers our teams. We encourage them to be entrepreneurial and creative to continue bettering the way in which we provide our service, we recognise them as the experts in food innovation. We strive to create a supportive working environment where existing employees feel motivated to push themselves and develop their professional skills.
Facilitating entrepreneurship within our workforce is part of our strategy aimed towards boosting employee retention, by allowing individuals to take pride in their day-to-day activities and explore various avenues within their roles. The knock-on effects of this are profound, we’ve witnessed street food concepts, grab and go ranges, masterclasses, virtual cook-a-longs, food waste initiatives – all led by individuals given the support to become innovators. Increased job satisfaction brings with it increased retention, as well as improved productivity that transmits all the way to delighting the customer, which is our overall objective in creating a memorable hospitality experience.
For these reasons, we nurture our culture of entrepreneurship, and utilising our decentralised supply chain, our chefs create their own menus, bespoke to the needs, and wants of their client and customers. Given the tools and freedom they need, no two menus are the same, just as no two restaurants are the same, as our chef teams bring their own creativity and innovation to the plate
To truly aid in its recovery, the hospitality industry needs to adopt a more daring approach to both retention and recruitment by upskilling its existing workforce from within whilst, at the same time, presenting a career in hospitality as one that can bring long-term job satisfaction and career opportunities, rather than as a stepping stone on the way to a more ‘prosperous’ career path. Hospitality is one of the few industries you can join with little or no experience, and with the right support and development it can lead to a long and successful career.