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Employment

How to fast-track a career in hospitality

We asked these industry experts what skills are needed to build a career in hospitality.

The fallout of the pandemic and Brexit combined with the easing of lockdown has left the many cafés, bars and restaurants with a gaping hole in their staffing. If you’ve got the skills and desire, there’s never been a better time to start a career in hospitality.

The number of jobs available as Covid restrictions ease are going up, according to recruiter CV Library, which reports hospitality listings are 43 per cent up in May on the previous month. 

With the new target of July 19 for ‘Freedom Day’, now is a great opportunity for people who want to fast-track a career in the sector, according to industry experts.

“The shortfall is a massive opportunity,” Alex Clayton, who owns Tasca Dali, a Spanish restaurant in Warwick, told the Big Issue. “A lot of people are out there looking for good people so there’s the opportunity to go far.”

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Paul Gilley, founder of hospitality recruitment site PJ Search, says as lockdown eases, it’s been the busiest time for hospitality recruitment he has seen in more than 20 years in the industry.

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 “Every single pub, restaurant and hotel is looking for staff. Several restaurants are not opening for lunch because they don’t have enough staff,” said Gilley, who has worked in hotels for 21 years and founded the company site two decades ago.

“Now is absolutely a great time for people who want to get in. There is definitely opportunity. Anybody who walks through the door right now will get a job in the company without a doubt.”

Mark Bowden, director of the National Hospitality Academy, which offers training across the UK, said there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to build a career in hospitality.

“I think it’s an industry where you can fast-track your way to management at a young age,” he says. “If you’re driven enough then you can’t have your own business in your own 20s or be a general manager of your own venue. There are loads of opportunities for any age group to come in and get involved.”

“Like any industry, hospitality will bounce back and the problems always create new opportunities. There’s an opportunity for a whole new group of people who want to come into the industry.”

Matthew Moore, managing director of online jobs board CV Library, said because of Brexit, and foreign workers returning to their countries during a year of lockdowns, there is less competition for hospitality roles.

He said: “There’s a better chance of getting into the sector at the moment than before. There is a shortage of staff, some places are struggling to open and it’s a really good opportunity to start in your first role and start a career.”

We asked these industry experts what skills are needed to build a career in hospitality.

A good attitude and willingness to learn 

It doesn’t matter how much experience you have, it’s more about the right attitude and the ability to give things a go, says Gilley: “Don’t worry about your level of experience in the past, if you’re willing, you’re in.” 

“You might not have the relevant skills or experience but there are opportunities if you’ve got eagerness and the right attitude,” Moore adds. “I don’t think it matters whether you’ve worked in hospitality before, it’s about the willingness to do so.”

Clayton says: “The key skills are a good sense of humour, a good work ethic and a willingness to do things.”

Transferable skills

People who were forced to change careers during the pandemic are in prime position for hospitality roles as they can demonstrate adaptability, says Moore. “If you’ve got experience in other industries, try and find where those parallels are and perhaps there is a bit of crossover.”

Chris Gamm, chief executive of hospitality careers specialists Springboard, adds: “Transferable skills will have a big part to play for those considering upskilling and retraining into a new career, especially within hospitality.

“Whilst to be successful in hospitality requires a strong and diverse skill set, it also caters extremely well – as a people-first industry – to creative, intuitive, and hardworking people with a strong desire to learn.”

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Personality

Hospitality is a customer-facing industry so being friendly and positive is important, says Bowden. “You’ve got to be able to deal with all kinds of people. Working in hospitality is like being on stage. If you can switch on being nice, friendly and helpful when you’re front of house, then you can really stand out in the industry.”

“The key element is patience, being thick-skinned to deal with the general public, and the ability to improvise,” says Clayton.

Gilley adds: “It’s all about personality, a positive approach and energy. You can’t be a clock watcher in hospitality because you’ve got to go with the flow. If we’re having a good day and need to work longer, you need to be able to crack on.”

Creativity

There are lots of exciting developments happening in the food industry including craft beers and wines made in the UK and experimentation with different cuisines, according to Clayton.

“If you become a chef, you can create unique dishes, move around the UK and travel the world,” he says. “People love food and are appreciative. Hospitality is a great ecosystem to be a part of. Those of us who can weather the storm will have a great future. There’s something for everyone. For people who like food, this is their time.”

Loyalty and passion

Loyalty is the most important quality, Clayton looks for in staff for his family-owned restaurant. “It’s about developing a rapport with customers and not having a rotation in staff,” he says. “It’s about knowing your products and your customers. You have to really love it.”

Opportunities for first jobbers

Moore says the restrictions of the pandemic have prevented some people getting their foot in the door. “A lot of people are assessing their futures at the moment but there’s also a generation of people perhaps looking for their first job after not being able to do so in the last 15 months or so and now’s a really good opportunity for the hospitality industry as a whole and for those individuals.”

“People are looking in alternative locations to source those people such as colleges and universities,” adds Gilley. “It’s a fantastic sector to be in and there is space right now for everybody.”

“You can achieve anything you want from any background,” says Bowden. “Anything is achievable if you’re willing to put in the time, hard work and effort.”

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