Hospitality leaders call for unity and collaboration from the industry to improve the perception of hospitality careers and attract more young people 

Senior leaders from the hospitality and foodservice industry came together at the Arena Summer Event for a roundtable, hosted by Nestlé Professional®, to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing the industry – youth employment.  

10 experts in the fields of HR, operations and food and beverage were in attendance representing companies with a combined UK workforce of more than 130,000, including the likes of BaxterStorey, Greene King and Compass Group UK&I.  

Chaired by William Murray CEO, Anita Murray, the roundtable opened with Nestlé Professional highlighting the industry’s perception problem – a key finding from its own research1. Negative stereotypes perpetuated by parents (47%), friends (35%), and teachers (34%) were identified as the main barriers preventing young people from considering a career in hospitality. From ‘unskilled’ roles and the ‘lack’ of careers that exist to ‘limited’ progression opportunities, experts delved into the misperceptions to understand how they can be tackled head on. 

Before looking at potential solutions, the roundtable highlighted a key benefit of attracting young talent to the industry. Louise Gallant, Head of Publican and MP Recruitment at Punch Pubs, emphasised the fresh thinking that young workers bring. She stated, “They’re naturally curious and want to question things,” highlighting their potential to embrace new technologies for smarter and more efficient processes.  

However, it was agreed early on the industry needs to redefine how it presents itself, before realising the benefits of a younger workforce. “There’s a clear disparity between what we know, as people who live and breathe the industry, and what the wider perception is”, said Graham Briggs, Head of Apprenticeships at Greene King. Whilst referring to hospitality as a “superpower” and “contagious”, BaxterStorey’s Director of Food, Greg Bramwell, urged the industry “to do a better job at promoting the skillset that young people can develop, from multi-tasking, problem solving and teamwork to communication, customer service and attention to detail.” 

Experts also highlighted the need for transparent communication about routes into the industry – with no requirements to do A-levels or get a degree – as well as the opportunities available to fast-track career development and the monetary rewards at different levels. 

Despite the ideas that were brought to the table, including a national ‘bring your child to work’ day for hospitality, business leaders agreed the industry has to, first, stop contradicting itself with siloed messaging on hospitality careers. Managing Director of Nestlé Professional, Katya Simmons, explained how the industry’s fragmented structure limits it from being able to deliver consistent messages about hospitality careers to young people. “Put simply, we need structure to be able to create clear messages on topics like culture and career progression which, from our research, we know are two key drivers for young people”.  

The experts stressed the importance of collaboration and a unified approach to create an authoritative industry voice and deliver a long-lasting, powerful message to young people regarding the array of opportunities available to them. 

One initiative already uniting the industry to inspire young people is the Choose Hospitality Pledge. Co-founded by Nestlé Professional, Choose Hospitality, and Springboard CareerScope – the Choose Hospitality Pledge aims to educate secondary school students about the industry’s wide range of entry-level roles and training opportunities, the breadth of roles available – dispelling the ‘only chef or waiter’ myth – as well the many career pathways on offer.  

The roundtable concluded with a shared agreement on the challenges and potential solutions to improve the perception of hospitality as an aspirational career choice for young people. The key takeaway, and a theme that cropped up throughout the discussion, was how does the industry take a more unified and collaborative approach. The panel agreed to join forces to create an open and honest dialogue with an industry body to kickstart the process of addressing the key issues raised.  

Roundtable attendees: 

  • Anita Murray, CEO, William Murray (Chair) 
  • Frank Coughlan, Executive Head Chef, BaxterStorey 
  • Amanda Scott, Director of Talent, Learning and D&I, Compass Group UK&I 
  • Greg Bramwell, Director of Food, BaxterStorey 
  • Louise Gallant, Head of Publican and MP Recruitment, Punch Pubs 
  • Cheryl Hope, Trading Director, Unitas 
  • Ross Baxter, Senior HR Business Partner, Greene King 
  • Graham Briggs, Head of Apprenticeships & EP – People and Culture, Greene King 
  • Anthony Piercey, Head of Food Deployment, ISS 
  • Katya Simmons, MD, Nestlé Professional 
  • Katrina Harrison, Brand and Activation Lead, Nestlé Professional