By Angela Frewin
College cutbacks mean the hospitality industry faces an increasingly uphill struggle to find well-trained graduates, according to a senior academic.
Paul Ward, a catering lecturer at City College, Norwich, says that college departments are now treated like profit-making operations to the detriment of training standards, with many cutting back on staff and student hours to save cash.
Norwich, one of the larger colleges, teaches 17,000 students a year, with more than 1,000 enrolled in the Hotel School. As part of a bid to save £1.5m a year over the next four years, it is planning to scrap the role of principal lecturer, losing staff with long experience, and downgrade all senior lecturers, who face a demoralising 20% salary cut and more work.
Ward estimated that hospitality students required a minimum of 22-24 class hours a week - yet some colleges had cut back to 16 hours a week.
Meanwhile, the general decline in social manners and skills meant it now took longer to train hospitality students to an employable level. And cuts in student grants forced many to work part-time, leaving them worn out in class.
Ward feared only a high-profile clamour from household names such as Gary Rhodes and Prue Leith would get through to the Government, which was investing in other areas, such as IT and summer learning camps. The trade could also help by reinstating the practice of taking on trainees.
Rocco Forte is planning a new luxury hotel in Cambridge to open in 2000.
His company, RF Hotels, said this week that it was in a very advanced stage of negotiations with the owners of the site, who already have planning permission.
Commercial director Richard Power declined to identify the site or its owners precisely until the deal was "signed and sealed". RF Hotels aims to make a formal announcement next month.
Power said: "Cambridge doesn't have a five-star hotel at the moment and we believe it should have." The property should have more than 100 bedrooms.
RF Hotels, formed a year ago, already manages the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. It is also building a £15m hotel in Cardiff, taking over the Savoy in Florence, Italy, and has further projects in Russia.
Teenagers are being used by police to gather evidence against hotels and pubs that serve underage drinkers.
The pairs of teenagers are working with police in Durham and Chester-le-Street. They ask pubs and hotels to sell them drinks, and they are shadowed by undercover officers who will witness or videotape each illegal purchase they make.
The alco-cop brigade is an extension of a scheme used last year by County Durham Police to crack down on shops and off-licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers. They caught more than 30 outlets, with the result that nine businesses had their licences revoked, including a flagship Co-op superstore.
Chief Inspector Jamie McAloon, who is masterminding the operation, said: "We have written to every licensee making them aware of our concern and the possibility of test purchases.
"If the licensees manage their premises properly, there should be no need for the police to take action. Unfortunately there has been a growing incidence of drunken, underage youths causing trouble."
Claridge's is once again without a general manager, having lost its second in six months.
Seamus McManus, who joined the luxury London hotel on 16 February, has left to care for his seriously ill wife.
McManus was recruited from the Mandarin hotel in Hawaii to replace Franáois Touzin, who left in November. Touzin had worked for the Savoy Group for eight years and was planning to take a break before returning to the hotel industry.
Resident managerDavid Broadhead, who has been at the hotel for 15 years, has once again taken the helm until a replacement for McManus can be found.
Broadhead said: "I have only seen three GMs sinceI have been here. These circumstances were unforeseen, but everyoneis very good at running around."
A spokesman for the Savoy Group said no decision had been madeyet on appointing a new general manager for Claridge's.
By Christina Golding
Contract caterers to the Armed Forces are weighing up Government proposals that could see caterers involved in combat zones.
The Ministry of Defence is considering significantly increasing the use of civilians, including contract caterers, to support its overseas operations.
Under the new scheme, caterers would have up to 16,500 troops to feed in situations where a long-term military presence is required.
Peter Harris, chief executive of Eurest Support Services, said there would be few problems for staff in "safe" locations but there could be employment difficulties if caterers were sent into volatile areas.
"You would not be able to insure staff to be in such areas. You would also struggle to retain staff commitment," he said.
Stan Whitley, director of Granada Defence Services, said that asking caterers to deal with a combat situation would be "an impossible task".
He added: "There is no way they would ask contractors to be put in any area we are not trained to be in. Why would they train caterers as soldiers when there is such a high turnover of staff in catering?"
A spokesman from the MoD said that there had yet been "no suggestion" that civilians would be involved in combat but he refused to be drawn on whether the support services would need additional military training.
"We are talking to industry but nothing has been formulated yet," he said.
French restaurant company Groupe Flo, which owns London's 10-strong Café Flo chain, was forced to issue extra shares to private investors when it floated on the second market of the Paris Bourse last week.
The retail offering to the French public of 130,060 shares represented only 15% of shares available and was 122 times oversubscribed. To meet demand, the group issued a further 86,679 shares, bringing the total to 216,739.
The shortfall was clawed back from the provision for institutional investors. After the adjustment, some 650,329 shares were offered to institutions, with about 25% of uptake from UK investors.
The share price was set at Ffr185.
A hotelier who complained about the debt recovery procedures employed by a hotel bookings agency, HotelWorld, has now been threatened with a High Court writ for libel by the agency's debt collecting firm.
Angie Petkovic of the Hallery House Hotel in Cheltenham was one of the hoteliers unhappy about receivinga threat of court action over money owed to HotelWorld, from debt collector Pegasus International (Caterer, 7 May, page 12).
The original problem arose because of confusion over how payments were made to HotelWorld - by direct debit or cheque.
In a letter to HotelWorld, Petkovic complained about the way her account had been handled and claimed that she knew from Pegasus that she was not the only hotelier to have been "treated so badly".
Pegasus International has denied making such a statement to Petkovic and has threatened to issue a libel writ in High Court if the allegation is not withdrawn.
Pegasus's Michael Carter said that Petkovic's comments were "unfounded" and that its response was "standard procedure" if such comments were made public. He added that the original threat of legal action over the debt due to HotelWorld was preceded by several requests for payment, a claim disputed by Petkovic.
HotelWorld last week admitted that up to 100 hotels could have received legal threats over money owed and said that complaints were being looked into, but refused to comment further.
Spanish multinational Sol Meli has bought Croatian Hotels and Resorts for US$3m (£1.8m). The company comprises 10 hotels and 11 bungalow, apartment and campsite complexes, giving Sol Meli control of 50% of hotel accommodation in the Istrian Peninsula, Croatia's top tourist spot.
Radisson Hotels Worldwide added 16 new hotels to its portfolio in the first quarter of 1998, including its first properties in Korea (Seoul), India (Raichak and New Delhi) and Jordan (Amman and Aqaba).
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) believes Mexico's burgeoning travel and tourism trade (set to create two million new jobs by 2010) can lead the Caribbean and Latin America into a new era of growth. While the Asian crisis has cost the sector 18 months of forecast growth globally, the WTTC predicts a 21st century boom.
Regent International Hotels will open its third new property later this year under the new ownership of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. The Regent Mumbai (Bombay) will offer 508 bedrooms, Regent Club accommodation for businessmen, seven food and beverage facilities, and 24-hour business centre and health club.
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has scooped the Top Hotel Chain (Overall) and Top Hotel Chain (Value for Money) categories in the Asian Wall Street Journal's annual travel survey.