I think the ‘low-skilled’ news is poor for a number of reasons, but not least because it is so inaccurate about hospitality and demonstrates how little the government is interested in our industry. I also think there’s a useful challenge to hospitality.

My timeline is full of people who are understandably upset about the words ‘low skilled’ and the government specifically picking out waiters and chefs as examples. It’s a poor use of words.

What I hope they mean is ‘no minimum qualification necessary’. We should embrace that: restaurant work is highly skilled but it doesn’t require qualifications (although they are available).

What we need is character, empathy, hard work, interest in making others happy. Life skills like organisation, punctuality. And more than anything keenness and energy. What a great thing that a potentially great career has so few barriers to entry.

Most Hawksmoor jobs, like a lot of top end jobs in the industry, need experience and the skill that comes with it, but many places provide great entry point jobs. It’s not low skilled at all.

Why should the government care? Quite apart from tax receipts and general employment numbers (which are astronomical by the way) I heard someone in the industry in the States say, we give Americans their first jobs. What a great thing to do.

There’s no doubt in my mind - as a direct result of this proposal not only will restaurants close, employment go down and tax receipts fall, but it will put British people out of work, up and down the supply chain.

People have painted the issue as ‘cheap labour’. It isn’t, certainly not amongst quality restaurants, it’s about access to enough labour. As an industry we could employ more and we’re effectively being asked to employ less.

All of which said, have we succeeded in making hospitality attractive enough to British people as a viable career? Depressingly the answer is no. We obviously need to try harder somehow, and admittedly it’s easier sometimes to just employ people who are ‘ready to go’ from the EU.

Perhaps that is the challenge. Do better. It is just hard to hear when there don’t seem to be enough people and when there are so many other challenges in running hospitality businesses, many of which operate on low margins.

At Hawksmoor just under half our people are British, a higher percentage amongst managers I imagine. We give people training, careers, support, decent pay and benefits. We’re a diverse, progressive place to work with loads of opportunity. Do I think that will be enough?

Anyway, interesting times. The ‘table stakes’ for running a restaurant get higher every year. Some people will meet those challenges and thrive. Some won’t, in part because they are getting zero help from their government.

  • This was piece was originally published as a thread on Twitter.

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