Summary of recent chaired presentation, Train to Retain, at The Restaurant Show

This year I had the pleasure of attending the Restaurant Show. This included going to various panels and tastings, such as the panel on branding and storytelling, and a tasting of different no and low alcohol beers. One of the real highlights of the show was attending a panel about training in the hospitality industry.

This fascinating session was chaired by Richard Fox (extreme right in image above), and featured Jill Whittaker, MD of HIT Training, which offers hotel and catering apprenticeships across all sectors; Dan Grantham (second from left), Talent Attraction Manager at Yo Sushi; Dan Barnes (extreme left in image above), Learning and Development Manager at Caprice and The Birley Clubs; and Chris Moore, Chief Executive of The Clink.

Chris Moore had so much of interest to say that his contribution will be covered later in a separate post.

Fox began by asking Jill Whittaker what she thought was the biggest problem in training in the hospitality industry – her answer was that, in her view, too many hoteliers and restaurateurs were trying to shoehorn the wrong people into apprenticeships – this wasn’t the right answer for everyone.

Dan Barnes, of Caprice Holdings which owns Sexy Fish, expanded on this. “There’s another approach” he argues. “At Sexy Fish we have a different approach to some of our more established sites. The key is to work with your younger managers, to help them develop a different style, a different approach. Dan Grantham, of Yo Sushi, agreed, adding “you also need to get your senior guys involved – they need to help build different pathways top down.”

how to train hospitality industry staff
Dan Grantham of Yo Sushi


Whittaker pointed out that, in the UK, we could no longer be complacent. “We used to have an unlimited supply of excellent staff”, she warns. “Now that’s been turned off.” Fox also stressed the intense competition for good recruits in the hospitality industry. The high street, which is in decline, represented a good source of personnel with experience in customer service, he suggested.

“If you invest in staff” Whittaker reassured, “they will stick around. At HIT we offered a weekend away to a a winning team of staff. Every one of them is still with us.”

Dan Barnes sees two aspects to the problem.

“Firstly, you need to consider time. Short-term planning and structure are key. Managers need a clear plan, and employees need to see how they are progressing.”

“Secondly, there is a problem of perception in this country. Hospitality is not seen as a profession in this country. In Europe people are proud to work in the hospitality industry – their family will have working in it, there is an emphasis on qualifications.”

Dan Barnes says that at Caprice and The Birley they use two main tools to help retain staff via training.

“The first is induction – a good introduction our company and working with us is essential. The second is a very clear approach to managing the employee life cycle. Our management need to have the skills to work within this – this includes knowledge of how to deal with disciplinary issues.”

“It’s important to make your training become habitual. Devise 90 minute workshops that can fit into particular shifts; or set aside time on a particular day of the week.”

Dan Barnes also advises looking into the apprenticeship scheme as an alternative for training in the hospitality industry. For the right people, he says, they work well for the employer who is having to pay the levy anyway. “After all, you can get someone coming in and doing the training for you.”

He goes on to explain that their whole approach to recruitment has changed too. “These days we hardly look at CVs. Texting potential recruits is best, as candidates rarely respond to emails.

In the end you need to consider what your employees are really looking for, he advises. On a straw poll of over thirty people he asked on the first day of their induction last week, all said they were more concerned about the hours they were working than about their pay. But the three main things which are important to employees in the hospitality industry are

  • Development – these days they want to have a career
  • To feel valued
  • Communication -to be involved with the business


Good advice, but easier said than done was the general consensus!


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