The winners of Caterer and Hotelkeeper's inaugural Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards were announced earlier this year. As we unveil the search to find their 2007 successors - the best employers in hospitality - we profile Bettys and Taylors, joint winner of winners with La Tasca restaurant group. Alix Young and Amanda Afiya report
The Caterer and Hotelkeeper Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards were launched last year to highlight and reward employment best practice in the British hospitality industry.
It's hugely beneficial for a business to have a reputation as an employer of choice. Hospitality professionals now place as much importance on issues such as work-life balance, career development and training as they do on a good salary. So they want to identify potentially attractive employers early on in the recruitment process. And employers want to attract better-qualified candidates - and to retain them for longer.
For those businesses and organisations already demonstrating HR best practice, our awards offer a chance to prove they are employers of choice. For those that could do with improving their employment practices, they showcase some businesses to learn from. And for jobseekers, they offer a means of benchmarking prospective employers against the best in the country.
As we launch our search for the winners of the Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards 2007, run in association with recruitment specialists The People Tree, we start by profiling one of this year's winners, Bettys and Taylors. Over the next nine months, you will hear from all our winners and see what they've done to deserve their accolades - and how you can stand shoulder to shoulder with them by entering next year's awards.
Winner of winners
The people in the advertising department at Bettys have found a great place to work. While their colleagues at sister company Taylors of Harrogate travel the country giving free Yorkshire tea samples to WI meetings, the Bettys team manage to rely on word of mouth alone to generate the huge queues permanently snaked outside the doors of their cafés.
It's got a lot to do with tradition, of course, because going to Bettys, a tearoom and café company with six branches across Yorkshire, is a ritual passed down from generation to generation. As well as being loved by its customers (more than one million visited the tearooms last year) it is also loved by its staff. That's why earlier this year it was joint overall winner of Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Best Places to Work in Hospitality award.
It all started in 1919 when Bettys founder Frederick Belmont arrived in the North of England after emigrating from Switzerland and getting on the wrong train from London. A trained chocolatier and baker, he worked with Farrah's -the makers of Harrogate toffee - for several years until he saved enough to open the first Bettys café in Harrogate. Four more branches, in North Allerton, Ilkley and two in York, were opened over the following 20 years. The company then teamed up with Taylors, a tea and coffee importer, in 1962.
The tearooms themselves are traditional English places, where Belmont's Swiss influences sit surprisingly well alongside Yorkshire customs - and nowhere more so than in the menu choices. Gruyère and Wensleydale fight each other for supremacy in the sourdough sandwiches alongside Swiss Alpine macaroni, fried fillet of haddock, röstis and curd tarts.
The York branch's interior was inspired by Belmont's experience on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary. Oak panels, stained glass and art deco features appear throughout the café and adjoining shop. An original mirror signed by countless Canadian servicemen remains from the basement Oakroom's wartime incarnation as Bettys Bar.
History and family are integral to the atmosphere at Bettys. It is rare to meet an employee who doesn't have a sibling, parent, aunt, cousin or partner working somewhere else in the company and long-servers with shining Bettys lapel pins pop up everywhere you look.
Belmont's great-nephew, Jonathan Wild, is the current chairman of Bettys and Taylors, which now has more than 1,000 employees. He regularly pops into every part of the business - including the branches, shops, tea factory and bakery - to keep an eye on what is going on, although the day-to-day running is overseen by managing director Sally Holme.
"Bettys is a family business with a family atmosphere," Holme says. "Our obsession with quality and service means we employ the very best staff, people who take pride in the quality of what they do. We're committed to employing bright, talented and energetic people, and once we've found them we'll help them grow their career as far as they wish to grow."
Many newcomers are recommended by existing staff but Bettys also holds recruitment evenings. These informal events mean that potential employees are made fully aware of the standards expected by the company before they apply. Internal recruitment, however, is always favoured over external and when the most recent branch opened in 2004, at the RHS Garden Harlow Carr, the entire management team was recruited from existing staff.
The Swiss efficiency that flows through the entire business is nowhere more evident than in their training and induction programmes. There is a Bettys way of doing just about everything. "It can be tough for new employees to learn but it allows them to see how far they are progressing and exactly where they are going wrong," admits HR manager Charlotte Diaz. Every aspect of training is detailed in the manual. Five pages are devoted purely to the setting up of a tea tray.
After the initial training period, staff are taken on a "grand tour", where they experience every aspect of the business and see it from the guest's side. All staff must try every item on the menu before they are fully trained. With a menu including cakes, scones, chocolates, cream buns and fruit tarts as well as a host of savoury items, it must be pretty daunting.
In order to keep information flowing through from top to bottom and back again, formal monthly briefings are held. Employees work in groups of no more than 12 with team leaders writing down targets and displaying them in the staff canteens.
Because the training is so specific and procedures precisely defined, Bettys is keen to hang on to its staff. In an industry renowned for high staff turnover, Bettys is well under the hospitality national average, with just 25% leaving within 12 months.
Sabbaticals and secondments
Flexibility is also a contributing factor. Sabbaticals and secondments to other areas of the business are offered to employees - if they feel it would make them happier - and always with the promise of a return to their previous job if it doesn't work out. Flexible working hours are offered to parents - useful when both mum and dad work in the business - and no staff work split shifts.
"The best thing about Bettys is that they put people first and see you as an individual," says Joanna Harrison, training manager at Bettys York. "Employees always receive a card and £10 voucher on their birthdays and big events such as anniversaries, marriages and births are celebrated with 'Champagne moments' in the monthly newsletter.
Sadly Bettys will never appear in the rest of the country as every cake, chocolate, pastry and loaf of bread (more than 200 different lines) is delivered to each branch daily from the craft bakery in Harrogate and a branch more than 30 miles from the bakery would compromise this quality.
The craft bakery itself is a marvel, hidden as it is in an industrial site just outside of Harrogate, which it shares with the Taylors factory and the cookery school. Looking like a large chalet and smelling like something out of Willy Wonka's factory, it is the place where the magic happens.
Easter and Christmas are the busiest times, and with several 5kg eggs, standing over half a metre tall dotted around the chocolate room it is hard to imagine a better place to spend your days.
A mysterious and unexplained bouncy castle company van parked in the bakery's car park might be the reason that the employees seem so cheerful but it's equally likely that it's just something they've put in the tea.
Bettys Cookery School
On-the-job training for the company's chefs was seen as a particularly difficult hurdle to jump. With the cafés all open seven days a week and queues outside the door all day long, finding the space and time to perfect new dishes was tough.
The solution arrived in the form of Bettys cookery school - opened in 2001. With new dishes on the menu appearing seasonally and standardisation required across the branches, chefs hold regular training sessions in these state-of-the-art kitchens. In addition, local schools use the facilities free of charge and the public pay for courses all year round.
Who are the judges and what do they look for?
An expert and fully independent judging panel has been selected for the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards 2007.
The judges have a wealth of experience in all areas of the hospitality industry and HR and are drawn from leading trade and industry bodies and trade magazines. The judging of the various awards categories will be carried out against specific criteria, which have been outlined in the entry details.
The judges will be looking for evidence of enthusiasm and fun as well as benefits. Entrants should demonstrate the commitment of their business to staff development, particularly highlighting examples of creativity. What range of skills is developed? How integrated is the learning? What is the balance between internal and external training? The judges will also look at the extent to which being a good place to work feeds back into adding more value to the business - ie, through better service, quality, and customer understanding. Businesses should show what they are doing above and beyond the legal HR requirements.
Bettys... giving something back
Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate operates a profit-sharing scheme called "Group Bonus". Each quarter, every employee is given a proportion of their salary as a bonus.
The bonus given equals 11.8% of each employee's salary, rather than a set amount, which is added to their pay.
Bettys and Taylors has been planting trees since 1990 and has planted more than three million in Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Brazil, Ecuador and the Yorkshire Dales. They strive for sustainable and ethical trading in every way and are constantly researching Fairtrade prices with their coffee and tea producers.
Each branch also has its own charity that staff and customers raise money for. Five per cent of annual profits is given back to local and international communities.
Hi! We're The People Tree, recruiters who specialise in recruiting managers and chefs for branded and themed restaurants and bars the length and breadth of the UK.
It's great to be involved in the Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards - we think it puts the spotlight on employers who dig deep to go the "extra mile" for their people - we like that.
So who are we? Well, as a business, we're no nonsense. We understand that we can't be everything to everyone and we don't want to be. So we concentrate on getting it just right for all you candidates and clients out there. You see, it's where we've all come from and it's what we know and do best. We remember only too well how it can feel to be frustrated in your job, ready to take that next career step but not sure how to do it or where it will lead.
Our offices are in London, Birmingham and Manchester. It sounds grand but it means that we're perfectly placed to cover the whole of the UK for you. If you're interested or maybe even just a little bit curious, give us a call or go to www.thepeopletree.co.uk.
If you have any queries about the awards or you would like to enter your company, please contact Lisa Goold on 020 8652 4200
or e-mail email@example.com.
How to enter Best Places to Work in Hospitality
Do you run a successful business and treat your staff well? Why not get greater recognition for your achievements? Enter the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards 2007. Go to www.caterersearch.com/bestplaces and complete the application form.
2007 AWARD CATEGORIES
The closing date for entries is 31 October 2006