There is no denying these are uncertain and difficult times for anyone connected with the hospitality industry. Throughout the world in 2020 and the start of 2021 catering establishments and hospitality venues have felt the brunt of government measures in order to slow the pandemic. Many of these businesses will never open their doors again. The strain, both financially and mentally, will be too much. On the other hand, those that survive the crisis will need to adapt and streamline their operations in an attempt to get customers back and turn their businesses profitable once more.
I am a great believer that in the catering and hospitality industry you never know everything, there is always something new, a new experience that you have not encountered previously. I have spent over 30 years in this wonderful business working in all aspects of the industry. I have been fortunate to work in some amazing places, meet some amazing people, both famous and not so famous and work with interesting and knowledgeable colleagues.
I have spent time in the wash-up, at senior management and opening and operating my own businesses. Yet I would not profess to know all there is to know about running a successful catering business. I would, however, like to share my experience and knowledge and work with other managers who might need a new perspective on how to operate their business successfully.
What should a good consultant do? It is my opinion that a consultant should work with the management and staff of the establishment that they are trying to help and not to impose their unilateral view and get into conflict. We have all seen Gordon Ramsey tackling his Kitchen Nightmares where the more conflict, the more swearing and more desperation that exists, the better the TV programme.
Ramsey is an incredible chef with a reputation for a fierce temper and the TV company has used that to their advantage – this is not effective consulting. We need to start out by identifying what the goal is. In what area is the establishment struggling?
A comprehensive overview of the business and detailed report will help highlight areas to work on. Whether it be the food percentage, staff training, pilferage or decor there are numerous possibilities. Once the areas of weakness are identified it is up to the management to decide on their goals and for the consultant to help achieve them. I see consulting as a long term relationship with continued support being offered in the future after the initial goals have been achieved.
A friend of mine who has consulted and run training courses for many years has a simple policy. It starts with “osophy” and “ology”. Philosophy is the way in which you work and how you explain the goals. Methodology is the process you work by to achieve the set goals. It is also massively important to be clear about the purpose. What you are doing, why you are doing it, what are the objectives and how you will measure whether you have reached them.
Honesty from both sides needs to play a part in the consulting process. The consultant is obviously trying to sell a service and is likely to embellish his skills but should be able to give hard evidence of skills and background in the job that is being undertaken. Likewise the business manager needs to be honest about what the issues are and what they want to gain from having a consultant work with them.
They also need to be transparent with regard to figures such as takings, staffing costs and GP percentages. I have recently studied a bookkeeping course with the world renowned Association of Accounting Technicians in order to help me better understand the financial aspects of helping other catering businesses. As you may have realised this is a subject that is close to my heart and my wife and I are currently in the process of establishing a catering consultancy, primarily for UK based clients although with the power of technology I see no reason why this cannot be worldwide.
Like me, my wife has spent her entire working career with the hospitality industry. She is extremely strong with customer service having run her own small hotel and now looking after the front of house in our restaurants. If you would like any further information I am happy to discuss your requirements and you can contact me at [email protected].