Hospitality Jobs in Danger from Brexit. Ranked28th October 2018
Brexit might not kill us all, despite rumours to the contrary, but it sure as shit is making our country a less attractive place to live.
Since the vote, hundreds of thousands of people born on a different side of a body of water have left Britain, or decided not to travel here to work. This has weakened our talent pool. It’s lowered service levels. It’s probably caused a few HR managers, GMs, owners and operators to lose their damn minds.
Certain roles are particularly endangered, especially those that sit at the cross-section of two axes:
– Scarcity of homegrown workforce
– Requisite skill and training
Just as Dante had his 9 levels of hell, so we have our apocalyptic ratings. And we’re stealing the scale. Let’s go.
Level 1 – Limbo, Positions in
This has less to do with Brexit and more to do with the potency of newly adopted technology and the obligatory change in consumer habits. But hey, Brexit is the backdrop, so…
Why use a hotel telephone to call someone when you can use your own mobile phone to find recommendations?
Sure, they live in the city and know the venues intimately. And fine, TripAdvisor is full of digital malcontents at best and the whiny, boorish and vapid at worst, but you can use it without speaking to a human I hear, so there’s really only one winner in this prize fight.
Level 2 – Lusty exchanges from afar
You can fill these roles without too much bother. Pop an ad out wherever and you’ll be inundated with options. It’s just, well, you can’t help feeling that you’ve hired someone, not the one, ya know…
The route from helper to Head Chef has never been swifter. The equation looks something like this:
More restaurants x More churn = More opportunities
No bad thing necessarily. Every industry is benefiting from promoting younger talent into senior positions, adding dynamism and hunger to their decision-making function. But it takes time to develop both the skills and the temperament to lead, especially in the everything-urgent cult of kitchen.
The CV might say ‘Head Chef’, but would they still be a Sous Chef if there were less restaurants or more competition? Now, imagine culling a large chunk of talented, trained chefs from the workforce that might be, I don’t know, Italian or French or Spanish. Or Polish or Romanian or Cypriot for that matter. What happens then?
Being a Head-anything isn’t just about function aptitude either. It’s about training and developing the team; it’s about taking responsibility. And if we’re rushing folks up the ladder, there’s a good chance we might miss a rung or two, creating a potentially vicious cycle of poor managers, training poor would-be managers.
The most underappreciated role in the industry. Seriously. Hosts are the first people to interact with guests and, by virtue of being in a position to welcome every stranger that enters the inn, dictate how comfortable we feel in that stranger’s home.
That matters. It’s always mattered. And it matters more than most host’s paychecks would suggest. Casual dining may have done more to exile the host role than Brexit, but closing a border to the trained talent that has grown up in these roles is detrimental to the primary notions of service we all lust after.
Level 3 – Gluttony: We’ve got it good, for now
Positions of strength. Catalysed by generational talent. Thankfully, there’s no end in site…yet…
Barista & Bartender
We’ve never experienced greater depths of ability than we do right now. Nor have consumers been better educated to appreciate it.
Both have been buoyed by an influx of European knowledge, skill and work ethic. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Level 4 – Greed = We want more
I mean, if we’re already feeling the squeeze now, then…
Chef de Partie
Once upon a time, there were these magical, diligent, solve-all people called ‘CDPs.’ Seriously. Look them up. They didn’t write menus, but they cooked the food. They didn’t find locker keys for the new KP, but they cooked the food. They didn’t even come to the manager’s meeting, but by Christ did they cook the damn food.
These ‘engineering’ roles have suffered from the rise in Head Chef celebrity status and the increasingly transient nature of hospitality roles in the 21st century.
If ever there were a position for a skilled individual, new to this country, to ply their trade without necessarily having the language nailed or the desire to manage folks in their adopted country, this is the food & drink equivalent. And. There. Are. No. C. D. Ps.
Level 5 – Anger now, Regret later
Get upset. Get mad. Get crazy. And remember, this is just level 5…
Barback, Runner, Commis Waiter, Chef de Rang, Waiter, Kitchen Porter, Housekeeper
Unsurprisingly, many of these entry-level roles are destinations for would-be workers new to a city.
Predictably, many of these workers are European and don’t feel quite so chipper about coming to our not-so-sunny shores.
Despairingly, it’s impossible to run a decent service or manage a faultless shift without them.
Level 6 – Heresy? I’m right, you’re wrong
Hear me out…
Receptionist, Reservations Agent
Ok, so it might not immediately seem like either of these roles are in peril. But consider that hotels, by their nature, are inhabited by – serious insight alert – foreigners.
One thing we’re not so brilliant at this side of mainland Europe is understanding the cultures and demands of mainland Europeans. And if you want to argue that point then please refer to the last 2 years of British history, thanks.
Both roles require nuance, tact and temerity. Not to say that Brits can’t fill in, but the working-accents gained from a life interacting with natives of other countries, and time spent in their homelands, is a distinct advantage for both the team and the guest.
Post-Brexit, travellers will still come to the UK. They’ll just be met with fewer people that can empathise with their wide-eyed confusion at all things British.
Level 7 – Violence. Just. Violence.
The backbone of any department. The people that get shit done. The ones that you’d do anything to keep. If you could…
Sous Chef, Front Office Manager, Housekeeping Manager, Event Manager
There are few more fulfilling experiences than being able to leave a busy shift or – god forbid – take a day off and have full confidence that you’re leaving a capable human being in charge.
Let’s shoehorn some more maths in:
(Reliability + Skill) x Departmental Managers on payroll = % chance of you leading a fulfilling life away from work.
Just like the vote, the maths isn’t in our favour.
Level 8 – Frauds! Tricksters! Charlatans!
“Every pastry chef in France needs to qualify and pass a CAP Patisserie exam before she or he can work, he must know ‘les bases’ – the fundamental skills, like shortcrust pastry, croissant pastry, creme patisserie, creme anglaise – before being able to make changes and improve them.
This makes room for progressive ideas with a twist on the traditional technique, and the result is phenomenal. We simply don’t have this strict rigour and determination that they have.”
Not a host. Not a head waiter. A standout Maitre D’ is the rhythm, memory and soul of a great restaurant. And there’s a reason that you’re reading this and struggling to find a reasonable comparison with any recent dining experience; we just don’t find room on the payroll for someone with authority in an entirely guest-focused role.
We have GMs. There are floor managers. Owner-operators do their bit. And they all have tumultuous affairs with spreadsheets and suppliers when they should be paying attention to their one true love, the customer.
Level 9 – Treachery, thy name is Brexit
An entirely objective, unbiased, not-because-an-English-bartender-suggested-I-order-the-‘Shirashtz’-recently…
We have a food culture in this country. We still, really don’t have a wine culture in this country. And when all the talented, erudite wine-knowers leave because we essentially told them that they weren’t welcome, we’re going to have a hard time replacing their warmth and comprehension.
There are noted, English sommeliers. There should be more. But, if you love wine – like, truly love wine – it must be tempting to relocate to a country that makes lots of great wine and also happens to be within striking distance of home. France, for example. Germany, Spain or Italy come to mind. Portugal is on the up. Austria is a forgotten powerhouse. Slovenia is doing something intriguing things. As is Bulgaria. And then there’s Greece of course.
Dante wrote the Divine Comedy. In it, the Italian poet paints a vision of the afterlife, complete with the unintelligible brilliance that only a deity could create or express. The irony isn’t lost on me.