My Hospitality World case study - Simon Haigh

The recent 'My Hospitality World Warwickshire' campaign was held to attract young people into the hospitality industry. Among its events was a very successful Afternoon Tea Masterclass at The Arden Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon. Simon Haigh, Food and Beverage Director at Eden Hotel Collection, who hosted the masterclass, reflects upon the event and the importance of engaging with schools to inspire young people to join the hospitality industry.

"Our Afternoon Tea Masterclass for My Hospitality World Warwickshire showed the spark that working in hospitality can create."

The hospitality sector is one that is renowned for providing opportunities for young people in various guises – whether this be as a stopgap during education or carving out a longer-term career.  With increasing competition in the sector, we recognise that to attract and retain the best talent, you must try to be ahead of the game. Engaging with young people whilst still in education is critical and why we get involved with campaigns like My Hospitality World Warwickshire. 

Ongoing tourist trade in the Warwickshire region opens a vast number of employment opportunities, so we are constantly looking to attract young people into our industry. There are many misconceptions about careers in hospitality, so the earlier we can engage with young people,the better we can help to educate them to understand what a hospitality career is all about. There is a perception that it's just about cooking or being a waiter and, yes, that might be a starting point, but often those that join us at a young age can quickly progress into supervisory and management roles. Outside the traditional ‘hotel’ roles, there are many opportunities such as accountancy, HR and sales and marketing. 

Other misconceptions can include long hours and low pay, but the industry has come along way in this regard. Yes, it can be hard work and the hours can be anti-social, but that often suits people, particularly now when people are looking for flexibility. It suited me, and I grew into the industry like many people do – it’s shaped my career and been immensely rewarding. I think one of the most important things for us is the re-education of people and a lot of this is the parents who do not fully understand the opportunities there are for young people and how much it has changed for the better.

At a time when good service is simply not enough, and people are looking for us to deliver an ‘experience’, there is no better feeling than being part of a team that helps deliver that. Best of all are the guests who come back time after time because of an experience that you and the team are providing. That really means a lot.

To deliver that, you need the best people and that's where the onus is on us to be the best possible employer. We invest significant time in forging relationships with local schools and colleges, open the doors to the hotels for school visits, conducting mock interviews to help students with their employability skills, and are equally keen to get involved with guest lecturing, particularly in specialist skills such as cookery.

When I was Executive Head Chef at Mallory Court, Leamington Spa, I was fortunate enough to create a workplace that was fun to come to, alongside knowing the work had to be done to the highest Michelin star standard. In allowing young people to experience our hotels, we can clearly demonstrate the vast opportunities the industry presents. 

Our Afternoon Tea Masterclass for My Hospitality World Warwickshire showed the spark that working in hospitality can create. The great thing with food is there is a result - you can see and enjoy the fruits of our labour. When the youngsters came in they were quite quiet, but as soon as they had a physical task to do they started talking and the noise levels rose, and it was great to see the buzz created around the room. Importantly, we wanted to inspire those with a passion for food with our approach to seasonal trends, fresh produce and more. That is what we need to do, connect with young people, light that spark and inspire them to want to work in our industry.

Personally, I could not recommend a career in hospitality more highly - as a chef where food is my passion,I never work a day in my life!

We have been thrilled to be part of the steering group for My Hospitality World Warwickshire and to really help a project committed to driving engagement between local schools and industry.