Gender equality and working conditions. Staff work too many hours across our industry. Business owners need to reduce their staff’s working hours to a reasonable amount. Men need to actively support equality in kitchens and set a zero tolerance for all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace for both men and women. Gender discrimination reduces us all and should be viewed by the restaurant industry as a business issue, not a ‘women’s issue’. We need to see more women in positions of power in restaurants and particularly in kitchens. There’s an imbalance and we all must contribute to addressing it. – Ben Shewry
FIRST OF ALL I CALL IT A PROFESSION, PEOPLE BURN OUT OR LOSE INTEREST TOO FAST. KEEP EVOLVING AND MAKING OUR PROFESSION RELEVANT TO GET OLD WITH. – Bo Bech
One of my concerns would be the over-use of packaging for food products. The growing problem of plastic in the sea really concerns me. The solution is to cut down on plastic wherever we can, I think a lot of us are doing that now, which is great, but the supermarkets need to up their game and demand it from their suppliers. – Clodagh McKenna
Work life balance and making it an attractive industry for a career. I think that there needs to be a systemic change across the industry from cafés up to fine dining, where employers offer fair wages and normal working hours in line with other industries. There needs to be more planning when it comes to career development for hospitality staff and support services on hand for employers to issue strict contracts, salary development and training in order to constantly upskill staff. Biases such as gender, race and age need be faced head on from a government level punishing employers for delivering or allowing discrimination to go on in their restaurants. – Dhruv Mittal
One word. Brexit. No one really knows what impact of Brexit is going to have on the UK, but from the point of view of the hospitality industry, it looks grim. There are huge question marks over the future availability and cost of imported food, labour costs, and the eligibility of EU nationals continuing to work in the UK. It’s a total mess. Another referendum might fix it, but it’s sadly unlikely to happen. – Fergus Jackson
Quality staff. By creating good company ethics, work environment, by looking after your staff and growing opportunities. – Greg Marchand
Tripadvisor blackmail. I’m breaking my back putting everything I have on the line and some entitled keyboard warrior will demand a free meal – because they didn’t like the colour of the plate – otherwise they’ll leave a bad review. Restaurants should be able to opt out of having these type of accounts online. Food is the last true way of exploring something new and people should go and find out for themselves or at least trust the opinion of a professional whose job it is to know about restaurants and food. Or we could just start to sue people for slander.
– Ivan Tisdall-Downes
The number of new/large operators with ‘deep pockets’ who are willing to pay astronomical rents and promote inexperienced staff. They spoil the work culture and ethic and create a false economy making it impossible for real chefs and aspiring restaurateurs to open solid restaurants offering great food and hospitality. – Karan Gokani
A huge concern at the moment in our industry is mental health, there are some great platforms to help chefs of all age and gender such as the Pilot Light campaign and to fix it we have to just keep speaking about it and offer help to anyone who needs it. This is all quite new for hospitality so I’m excited to see how this evolves over the next few years. – Kian Samyani
I think restaurant staff are seriously overworked and ridiculously underpaid. The only way I can think to fix it is if the public were prepared to pay a much higher price when eating out, which seems unlikely at the moment. – Merlin Labron-Johnson
The independent operator is losing out to the large chain multiples. Commercial rates being discounted? – Michael Carr
The major concern in the hospitality industry at present is the future of staffing due to Brexit. Across the board, our restaurants and hotels are being run by enthusiastic, hard-working and professional chefs, front of house and housekeeping staff who have come from EU countries. Without them, staffing is going to be very difficult. For chefs, maybe things are a little brighter as UK nationals do see this a worthwhile career but for front of house and housekeeping, that’s a very different story as those jobs have never been taken seriously as a career here. Getting the right calibre of people with the right attitude and the will to work reliably and during unsocial hours is going to be hard. We also won’t have enough properly trained people here to fill all the vacancies anyway. – Nathan Outlaw
Holding onto good people is something I think about a lot as our business grows. I’m really committed to doing the right thing by our team, making sure they are rewarded fairly, have a good work life balance, a great environment to work in, and enjoy themselves. – Nicholas Balfe
I think poor mental health in the hospitality industry is a big issue – it has always been there but with the rise in social media mental health issues have also increased. We are now constantly comparing ourselves to others, especially in the competitive chef world. I recently read an article that said 51% of chefs had suffered depression due to overwork, which is such an astonishing figure and things do need to change. It’s not an easy issue to fix but one thing my wife, Emma and I do, is ensure that all are employees feel part of the family. Although cooking and serving our customers is important, we see our staff’s mental health as equally important. By creating an environment where people are there to listen and understand, it means that employees who are struggling have a concrete support system. We also support the charity Hospitality Action. They offer vital assistance to all who work or have worked within hospitality in the UK and who find themselves in crisis. Hopefully the more we talk about it, the more likely people in the industry will feel comfortable enough to come forward and get the help they both need and deserve. – Paul Ainsworth
I have many concerns about our industry. A main concern is the level of awareness we allow ourselves before the first bite and then the responsibility we shun as we take that first bite. I know I am guilty of it everyday. What’s in it? Where did the ingredients come from? Who prepared it? How did it get here?
There are so many factors to consider about our own health, the health of the planet, the exploitation of workers and so on before we even take that first bite. And many of our top restaurants or large chains are not asking these questions themselves. It is horrific that we’ve even got ourselves into this position but if we stop and ask these difficult questions before we take a bite and then make more responsible and informed choices we can start to drastically change many of the problems that surround our industry. – Sam Buckley
Wastage. We need to be writing menus that are seasonal and frugal. – Theo Randall
The constant opening of new restaurants is a big concern I have right now. The way to work towards fixing it would be to strap down and concentrate on developing what we already have as an industry. – Tom Anglesea
It’s more and more difficult to make a living with increased pricing. Abolish business rates for a start. – Robin Gill
The chef and front of house crisis. There’s just not enough front of house workers. So it’s just training people and not having that skill level there at the moment. That skill level being too expensive at the moment as well. There’s quite a few problems with the industry at the moment. They need to get paid more money for it to be made into an industry, but the trouble is, that needs to be passed on to the client. Then the customer’s not going to pay that money at the moment.
In America, a hamburger costs $38, here it costs £12. There’s a disparity in what people think food is worth and you make more money out of selling cheaper food, so our margins are crushed. People don’t understand how we pay people. There’s a lot of negativity around the service charge, people think there’s an option to pay or not. You go into a bank, maybe you have a bad experience, but that doesn’t mean the bank teller shouldn’t be paid in that instance.
I think that public opinion is skewed by the media and we’re scapegoats for people’s lack of understanding how we pay people. Also, people are a little bit too fucking nosy about it. I wouldn’t go into a bank or a corner shop and ask ‘how are you paying your staff?’ You don’t ask that question, whereas they ask us every day. It’s weird, we need to get over that and we need to charge proper pricing so that we can pay our staff better and then we’ll have more of an industry. – Neil Rankin
Maybe men stop grabbing every fucking chick’s ass. As simple as that. There’s a lot of boy club shit. It’s pretty evident. It’s a human thing, it’s not an industry thing. Everyone with a bit of power and not even a lot of power. Somebody thinks they’re a little bit better than someone else and it’s suddenly okay. People should literally be able to come to work, be in a safe place and be creative and do what they want. Being a chef, you don’t make any money, so people are working the hardest they can, for 12-14 hours a day. They should be able to do that in a safe place and not get grabbed. People need to get back to treating people the way they want to be treated. As simple as it is, people need to go back to simple of notions of being a human being. – Matty Matheson
Interview by Davey BRETT & Will HALBERT