Staff training delivers success

Investing in staff to reach their potential is a great way of developing and retaining talent in our organisations, says David McKown

Delivering a successful catering and hospitality service within higher education requires a total commitment to staff development. Why might you ask? I am sure everyone will agree that our sector is extremely diverse in terms of customer requirements. One day you might be servicing a business lunch for champions of industry and the next a celebratory dinner for a student society. In addition contemporary coffee shops and street food-style offerings are now at the forefront of the hospitality service in HE.

Staff working in HE catering and hospitality require a totally different set of skills than they might have brought to the business when they first joined the institution. Some staff might have joined the business in the last century and what is required now is a totally different approach to service, food and beverage style, presentation and how we sell your services.

A few years ago terms like barista, smoothie, wraps, burritos, pulled pork, grazing, street food, wine flights, artisan, and flat white would not have been in the day-to-day vocabulary of staff working in HE. Staff need to be kept up to date with our fast-moving sector and be willing to change.

A proactive and dedicated commitment to training for change is essential. The following quote is relevant to all staff at all levels within catering and hospitality: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything,” George Bernard Shaw.

Allocating a budget to spend on progress is key to success. Opportunities for cost-effective staff training in our sector are literally at our fingertips. A quick trawl across various websites will reveal a wealth of opportunities for staff development. In five minutes I came across wine service courses, nutrition awareness, marketing awareness, social media and finance training for chefs, barista courses, chef’s conferences and many more.

Investing in staff to reach their potential in competitions is a great way of developing and retaining talent in our organisations. Skills training can sometimes be overlooked in our sector in favour of generic skills. I agree that a commitment to customer service training is essential but I believe in this being facilitated by a leader in the world of hospitality. University Hospitality Seminars Ltd. is committed to organising world-leading masterclass sessions for staff working in the sector.

The skills of chefs in the HE sector have progressed significantly in recent years and it is now time that the spotlight was placed firmly on staff working in restaurant and banqueting operations. I also believe that developing the staff working in retail catering outlets and counter service-style operations is also a high priority.

This is one of the reasons that a series of “Contemporary Merchandising and Selling” courses have been organised by The University Caterers Organisation and UHS will be focusing on the delivery of the training.

Just another thought on investment and how to calculate staff training budgets; when I worked for the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board, we used to always suggest calculating 1% of your total staff costs and then put that amount of money into your training budget. This 1% should be for ‘pure’ training and not for the wages of staff whilst they are being trained. I suggest that you do this calculation to see how your budget currently stands.

David McKown is Director of University Hospitality Seminars (UHS).