Experience can be sexy, too
As a greying, balding, circumferentially challenged, fortyish chef, I feel I really must protest at the tone of Susan Hastey's letter (Caterer, 8 July, page 20) regarding Jamie Oliver.
I have never met Oliver, so do not feel qualified to comment about him personally. However, anything that can help interest people in our industry is to be welcomed. Having said that, it is equally important to keep people in the industry. Far too many "hotshots" burn out or simply lose interest before turning 30.
It is to be hoped that there will continue to be some recognition and acknowledgement of those of us who have served our time, been "through the fire" and have come out smiling in an industry we love. If the price of this is a few pictures of grey beards and bald heads - or saggy waistlines - surely this, too, is worth paying?
Red Lion Inn,
New Radnor, Powys.
nightmare of a hunter's quarry
My phone rang four weeks ago. I picked it up and a charming lady introduced herself as a consultant for a head-hunting company.
Normally, I tend to ignore these types of phone calls, but being tired and under pressure at work, I agreed to meet a few days later.
We met at the bar of a four-star hotel. The meeting lasted about an hour and was well-conducted. The position for which I had been contacted was general manager of a small four-star hotel. I informed the consultant that I was not interested in this particular position on the grounds that the current manager was a friend of mine, as well as having been a former employer. The consultant then mentioned a new hotel opening in September with the position of food and beverage operation manager. As I am passionate about food and beverage, I agreed to meet the general manager - nothing wrong with window shopping - and the interview took place a few days later. The next business day, I contacted the head-hunters to inform them that I was interested in the position. I left a message as the consultant was not available.
A couple of unanswered messages later, I managed to speak to the consultant and give my feedback. I also, foolishly, gave a list of names and telephone numbers of colleagues who were looking for a career move. The consultant told me that he would come back to me very shortly.
Two weeks and two unanswered messages later I managed to speak to the consultant, and the conversation went like this:
"Good morning, how are you?"
"Great, thank you... and you?"
"Fine. I am calling to see if you have any news regarding the position."
"Hmm... I had a meeting with the general manager. He decided to go for someone else."
"Fine. Why didn't you contact me instead of keeping me waiting?"
"Hmm... I have not been in the office... "
"I would like you to take my file out of your records, as well as my recommendations. You contacted me. I believe that I, too, am your client. And yet I have done all the chasing. I have also provided you with names. You have not once called me, and I feel that it is all very unprofessional."
"I don't have to put up with that on a Monday morning!"
... and he slammed the phone down.
I calmed down, called again, and spoke to one of his colleagues, asking for an apology. I am still waiting.
I have learned my lessons: first, never give in to the temptation of using head-hunters, apart from the well-known ones. They will dump you as soon as you are no longer useful to them, and they will not hesitate in selling your job, so beware. Their only loyalty is to their bank accounts.
Second, do not use them if you are a prospective employer, they will damage your reputation.
And third, do not recommend anyone to them, unless it is someone you dislike.
Name and address withheld
Deep pan guidance on working hours
I refer to your article "Deep Pan staff asked to work longer hours" (Caterer, 1 July, page 5).
The "contract" mentioned in the article has been in operation throughout City Centre Restaurants for some nine months without any material problems. Far from seeking to increase hours, as suggested, it was introduced to provide some guidance on what the typical restaurant manager might expect to work given that the earlier "contract" referred only to working hours as being "those required for the proper performance of your duties".
In practice, most of our managers were, and are, highly committed and often chose to work well in excess of 54 hours, particularly in busy periods or when the occasional operational crisis required it.
No manager, to my knowledge, has a contract specifying 45 hours a week but it is perfectly possible for a highly competent manager, who has developed the business and the staff, to achieve his or her objectives within such hours. Should he or she do so, then the salary is very likely to increase, and in no circumstances would it decrease for a salaried person.
We point out to all staff that they have a statutory right not to be required to work more that an average 48 hours a week and, indeed, we print a statement to this effect in the staff handbook.
When an employee's pay is directly linked to the number of hours they work and they choose to reduce those hours, then their wage will be reduced accordingly. I know of no business where this is not the case.
In such circumstances the work that is not performed, and the pay for it, will, of course, go to other employees. However, the majority of our managers are on salaried conditions and their pay does not fluctuate with the hours worked - but this is not yet universally the case for every manager.
In practice, nearly all of our employees, whether salaried or hourly paid, have agreed to opt out of the weekly hours limitation set by the working hours regulations and we fully respect the rights of the handful who have chosen not to do so.
Human Resources Director,
City Centre Restaurants (UK),
With reference to Richard Ware's diary piece, "What pupils really, really want for lunch" (Caterer, 24 June, page 26), it is not surprising that nearly 80% of the pupils surveyed wanted beef burgers.
The research that the Meat and Livestock Commission has carried out into school meals clearly shows that, when beef, and particularly beef burgers, are reintroduced, demand for school meals is increased and that increase is then sustained.
During the past 12 months up to 50 local authorities have lifted their beef bans as a result of renewed confidence in the British beef industry and the safety measures that have been adopted, such as the quality standard for beef burgers.
I am sure that the remaining 47 local authorities still with beef bans in place would benefit greatly in terms of increased diners, giving increased revenues from which, in most cases, the surpluses would be returned to the education department. This would benefit all pupils if, like Richard Ware, they surveyed their consumers and acted upon the results.
Trade Sector Manager,
Meat and Livestock Commission,
Further to Jenny Webster's opinion, "Fair play on staff pay" (Caterer, 24 June, page 21), I left school, as so many 16-year-olds do, without a clue what career path to choose. If it were not for the fact that, at the time, I was working in banqueting for a local hotel, I would probably be working in the nearest shoe factory - as so many of my career-less friends do now.
However, in my experience, choosing to go to college and getting hotel and catering qualifications have all seemed a bit of a waste of time.
After working at several of the country's finest hotels for several years as chef de rang and receptionist, the problem is simple: not enough pay to keep me interested in the industry.
I had always thought that the hotel industry was an excellent choice, and I did have passion, but I cannot pick up my chosen career for financial reasons.
If hotels increased their pay they would find staff would stay longer, be more committed to the establishment and, in turn, company culture would increase.
I am not the only young professional who has had to leave the industry for the same reason. I would estimate half of the young, keen, college-trained professionals I trained with have left for the same reason.
I shall remain a secretary in the building industry at £13,500 until my preferred industry shapes up and pays what is deserved - we're not talking millions!