* the hospitality sector is one of the most stable employers in the World... that is until a Worldwide, life changing, deadly virus comes along and fucks shit up for everybody... up until that point though, this statement is accurate....
20 years ago, I made the switch from high street retail to out of town retail. My focus after 10 years of working in transactional businesses, where success was measured in how quickly you could serve somebody at a till... Suddenly switching to the value of dwell time, convenient opening hours and the 3rd place philosophy I now love so much. 20 years ago, I discovered that hospitality and retail could co-exist in the same space and deliver an outstanding experience for the customer. I had joined Borders in 2002, and this became a lightbulb moment for me. Like many, I was nudged into hospitality, rather than choosing it as a career path. But I ended up falling in love.
It is not easy loving the World of hospitality. For those who have worked a while in the hospitality industry, you will know we hear the same complaints people have throughout the industry. We have all met plenty of colleagues who have the same woes, the same tales to tell, the same issues with similar things, regardless of the environment they are in. To this I say, I understand - but it comes with the territory. It is important to understand though.
Described by hospitality professionals as 'quite busy'
So, Let's talk about the outside looking in:
Number one beef that employees in our sector have... being available extreme hours at the drop of a hat, meaning AFD really does mean ALL Fucking Day; Number 2: the incredibly poor wages you are ever so grateful to receive; Number 3: the sore feet from your 45000 steps today; Number 4: The frankly arsehole guests that demand silver cloud service, for fiat panda price; Number 5: the horrible bosses that always think they know best when honestly, they have less of a clue than the last half-wit the company employed to spin in that chair; and Number 6: the way that no matter what you do to prevent it, you still come home smelling like a sweaty greasy burger served in a dirty ashtray.... yes let's acknowledge all those things shall we... !?
Yet as all those people lucky enough to work in this amazing industry also know, it isn’t all bad. In fact, the majority of the time it is really a lot of fun. With the right understanding and the right ideas about what you want within the broad and ever-expanding hospitality sector, it could well turn out to be your best career move... ever.
So, I am going to add to those assumptions an element of perspective. Here’s why hospitality working is great.
Social life and Life Skills
It is so incredibly social. You are after all in a position of hosting. Every shift, You get to talk to people all the time, you are constantly interacting with other humans. Then - Not only do you get to meet people all the time, but you find out some really cool stuff along the way. Society is knowledge - when was the last time one of your mates from outside the trade, came home and told you a genuinely interesting story about somebody they had met at work? It's amazing how close you can feel to your guest - especially when you are the one providing the food and drink to his or her friends... its also amazing how many friends you suddenly have outside the trade, once they realise that there may be a chance of a back door to event tickets for example.
Indeed, over time, hospitality work becomes an addiction. Page one of every hospitality staff handbook should carry a health warning. Through one or maybe many venues, you continue to learn skills that you then have for life. What other industry gives you the opportunity to be treated like pond life, but the experience and training to smile and rise above it? Over time, my own career has taken me from high street retailing to theme parks, hotels, to late night entertainment bars, pubs, workplace catering, to stadiums and arenas... one thing I have learned is that be it the guest or the client - they are not always right... however, it is important that they feel like they are never wrong. My career has placed me in the fortunate position of meeting some famous, some very famous, and some not-so-famous people, and for sure, I will say, the hospitality experience I have, has given me skills to deal with any situation, whatever the circumstance. With swagger, confidence, and stamina, I deploy a structured decision-making thought process to ensure that employers know exactly what they are going to get and that the end user gets the best of me, and the best experience possible with my business.
Travel and friendship.
Hospitality exists everywhere in the world and is a fantastic way to travel around the globe. You can get Visas in many countries and easily gain hospitality experience abroad and further your network and skills. It is a great way to meet people and support yourself while having new experiences. Many of the greatest hospitality companies such as Compass Group (the largest international catering company in the World) operate globally... meaning opportunities you would never imagine. Life has taken me to all parts of the UK, as well as a couple of times overseas - places I would never have imagined visiting if not for work. I remember in my early retail career, hosting a book launch in Coventry and Derby, with Geoff Thompson, a prolific biographer, author, and now life coach - who said to me "Martin, roots are for trees, not people". For years I have embraced the opportunity to work in different places, From Aberdeen in mid-winter (why would you), to St. Hellier, Jersey in mid Summer (why wouldn't you), from the back streets of Aberystwyth to the beach fronts of Norfolk, from the pavements of Chicago to downtown Corby, from the beautifully warm coast of Florida to the bleak mid-winter of Birmingham. This Yorkshire lad started his career journey out of Rotherham - which is an absolute hole in the beating heart of industrial South Yorkshire, so its no surprise I wanted to travel a bit really 😂 However, now I have, this makes me a very popular pub quiz team member for my knowledge of UK geography and roads...
Lets influence people and make friends. You will find out from colleagues pretty quickly who the twats are, but on the off chance you don't find this out... then I'm afraid the twat is you
If you are new to a place, traveling, or starting work in a venue where you don’t know anybody, it is a GREAT place to make friends. Hospitality workers have to be friendly, it’s their job! So you’ve come to the right place. You may make friendships for life... you will also meet some right dick heads (law of averages I am afraid). You will find out from colleagues pretty quickly who the twats are, but on the off chance you don't find this out... then I'm afraid the twat is you, and you may need to re-evaluate your approach 😉
never be apologetic for following your dreams and achieving your earning potential... there is plenty of opportunity for the right people
Hospitality is flexible when it comes to working around the other parts of your life. If you have to study during the day? Work nights. If you have to look after your kids at night? Work during the day. Tailor it to suit yourself, it is possible. No other industry is that flexible, and you know - depending on what you do and where the wages can be good... or should we say Wages aren't that bad...
It is a sad fact that in some places hospitality wages are poorer than most... Who are we kidding, hospitality wages are the shittest right? However given the right establishment, and venues that are above board and paying through PAYE - they should actually be offering a relatively decent wage for your services - especially in a time of crisis, where great people are so hard to come by. This does depend on where you work in the country and in what role of course... a word of warning though, this wage structure is wide and varied - find your lane, and know your worth - and never be apologetic for following your dreams and achieving your earning potential... there is plenty of opportunity for the right people at the moment.
Great companies don't need to sell themselves cheap. Cheap companies need to sell themselves greatly.
Of course, it is not just about money, it is also about how you are treated, and it is about the environment created - I have worked with some belters, and also some dogs, and I would always return to help the former if needed. Then, once bitten, the latter has seen the last of me. There is probably another candid blog on companies I have worked with... when I have retired maybe 🤔 For me it's a simple rule... you go for an interview and any company that feels the need to tell you how great they treat their people - grab that huge pinch of salt, as generally they really don't. Any boss that feels the need to explain to you that they are a straight talker - well they are generally a bully and an arsehole... so do your research. Find a place that is going to treat you and the team fairly, and work hard for each other. Great companies don't need to sell themselves cheaply. Cheap companies need to sell themselves greatly.
Regardless though. The opportunities are there in abundance. It is estimated that 993,000 additional staff members are currently required in the sector this year - 2023. A great opportunity exists to forge a career in a growing and rewarding sector. Do you want to be a chef? Maybe a food service assistant? Maybe a bar person, a barista, a toilet attendant, a cleaner, a housekeeper, or a manager... whether or not you prefer cooking, coffee making, or beer brewing. Perhaps you love to create cocktails, or perhaps you just enjoy creating memories for your guests... Have a go. There will always be opportunities to be involved. No other industry is as diverse or welcoming of talent from bottom to top. Whether you get the chance to work at a food festival, perhaps an event, or a music festival, there are chances to step outside of your regular surroundings and do something different. Not to mention you get to try food and drinks all the time! If you like the circuit lifestyle, then you cannot go wrong with Levy (UK) - a subsidiary brand within Compass, that caters to stadiums, sports arenas, and events across the globe. I know plenty of great people that make a wonderful living from 'the circuit'. If you prefer the less nomadic lifestyle though, then there are superb opportunities in B&I workplace feeding and Education. Maybe contract catering is not for you, and you would prefer a restaurant job or one of our country's excellent pub businesses like Wetherspoon or Marstons.
If you are just starting out in your career, the diversity of jobs available in hospitality can allow you to experiment until you find a pathway that suits you best. This characteristic is unheard of in many other professions.
It was all shits and giggles until someone giggled and shit
If you have never worked in any kind of service environment before, you probably don’t know how much fun it can be. Depending on the venue of course… but you are often working alongside friends, and you are basically the most popular person at a party, standing right at the front! Be careful you don’t have too much fun though … work smart: the right thing, the right time - challenge the norm, if the norm isn't good enough. Enjoy the guest company: they want you to make them feel like they are the only important guest to you, and they will tip for that experience... one word of warning though - discretion - there's nothing worse for a boss than a smooth-talking lothario, spending too much time trying to get into the knickers of anything with a pulse - rather than taking their money... quickly.
The hospitality industry has a history that spans thousands of years. Even in ancient times, there were inns and private residences, all needing the services of great hospitality staff... if you ever get the opportunity to experience Pompeii and Herculaneum, its incredible. Poignant in the reality of what happened there in the end, but if you went with a mind to overlay part of the history of hospitality, you wouldn't be disappointed... now obviously, The industry has grown by leaps and bounds since then and it shows no signs of slowing down - but I bet you if you had asked the young Roman man selling bread and cheese, from his food stall at Pompeii chariot racing, or the older Roman housekeeper looking after the latest Emporer - I bet if you could go back and ask them what they thought of their hospitality job then, we wouldn't be far wrong in our assessment here and now. Yes, hospitality is one of the few industries in the world that will pretty much always exist. Since the Kings and Queens of Tudor times needed their food preparing and serving, and employed court jesters and maids... The hospitality sector has remained relatively stable even despite the tough economic trading of the early 21st century*, surviving a credit crisis, new licensing laws, and a smoking ban... so from that perspective, it can be a pretty safe career choice.
* that is until a Worldwide, life-changing, deadly virus comes along and fucks shit up for everybody... up until that point though, this statement is accurate.... and will return to being accurate, one fantastic experience at a time.
I have had some truly memorable jobs. I have worked with some awesome people - and still do. Working in hospitality is more than great, working in hospitality is quite simply the best job I have ever had.
So come into our World, the beer is cold, the food is tasty, the experience is the stuff legends are made of.... and you, are more than welcome!
Just as you are.