Auditions not interviews

With the Apprenticeship Levy recently coming in, Kevin Watson, Managing Director at Amadeus explains how they look to recruit, train and retain the best. “One of the greatest challenges I face as MD is people: recruiting the best, keeping the best and getting the best from the team.”

Working in the catering industry is both extremely rewarding and extremely challenging. It can offer a career for life – if you’re happy to roll up your sleeves and ride the rough with the smooth. It is an ever- changing, but indispensable industry.

It’s no secret that hospitality leaders have struggled to recruit the talent the sector needs in the past – that’s why figures indicate over 900,000 workers need to be recruited in the next five years to sustain the growing industry. Amadeus – like all other large scale caterers – is in constant need of new blood, with the correct work-ready skills, in order to help the company thrive.

Apprenticeships have long been seen as one way of creating that future pipeline of talent so urgently needed. That’s why industry has widely welcomed news of the government’s apprenticeship levy and the new measures of support surrounding the administration of apprenticeships. At Amadeus, we see apprenticeships as a way to nurture the hospitality stars of the future, so anything that encourages people to seriously consider catering as a career and provides them with good quality training and a qualification has got to be a good thing.

We have been attracting talent through our apprenticeship scheme run in partnership with Solihull College since 2013. Designed to help aspiring chefs over the age of 18 develop their culinary skills to move into a career in hospitality, it is a challenging scheme that requires dedication and commitment from those taking part. Our apprentices learn how to deliver outstanding retail, exhibition, conference and event catering at the NEC Group’s world class venues – the NEC, ICC, Vox, Barclaycard and Genting Arenas, all based in Birmingham. They spend one day a week at College and then four days a week in the kitchen where students are assessed in a real environment.

The Amadeus Catering Apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity that doesn’t just pay lip service to the idea of training – apprentices receive one on one guidance from our world-class chefs and get exposed to exciting and demanding high profile events as part of the package. Our Executive Chefs coach trainees the whole way through the process and inspire them to aim for the very highest standards.

For those who come through our apprenticeship programme, we want them to stay and build careers with us – rising through the ranks of the company over the next five, 10, 15 years and beyond. And here in lies the second part of the problem – how to ensure apprentices go on to succeed in the hospitality industry and enjoy long, rewarding careers. One of the greatest challenges I face as an MD is people: recruiting the best and keeping the best.

More than ever, businesses need to take proactive steps to keep trainees within the business after achieving their qualifications. They need to outline clear progression strategies for individuals in order to retain talent and make them feel valued. All our staff, of every position, are extensively trained following recruitment and encouraged to become immersed in the Amadeus way of life. Every employee is fully inducted into the business and we have a robust performance management process that captures all personal development requirements. We provide development opportunities both bottom up, so culinary for our chefs, and top down such as coaching and sales training to enable us to meet our strategic goals. 

For those looking to move up the ladder we run our Amadeus masterclass series which aims to enhance the skills of our workforce with six key modules covering retail and customer service, bars and hospitality and conference and banqueting. Staff get paid for this voluntary training which provides them with one on one sessions with industry experts – both in live environments and in the ‘classroom’ – helping them to gain in confidence and enhance progression opportunities. We also nurture talent across the business with a selection of rising stars benefiting from the Amadeus Academy each year – this teaches the art and skill of foodservice at the highest level.

Finally, our ‘Service that Sells’ training programme incentivises staff to live and breathe the values of Amadeus with a ‘recognise and reward’ gift scheme in place to acknowledge staff on the spot who demonstrate our core values in their work.

We are looking for people that deliver passion and creativity in all aspects of their work and possess a real drive to succeed. As a company, we are not afraid to fail or take risks which is important as it allows us to keep on innovating, and we encourage our staff to adopt this same approach in their roles. One should never underestimate the importance of culture in an organisation – ask anyone why they work for Amadeus and the resounding answer is “the people”. Anyone who works with us is instantly struck by the team’s comradery and ability to still have fun while working in a fast paced, demanding environment. I pride myself as being an approachable leader and take time to get to know individuals, conducting ‘back to the floor’ shifts in each venue and hosting team building sessions.

Last year the team delivered the company’s strongest trading results in its 40-year history – we drove exponential growth in our external venues business over the last year securing a record amount of new contracts totalling over £30m, including the East of England Arena and Event Centre, Delapré Abbey Preservation Trust and Compton Verney art gallery. We also took on two major contracts in Northern Ireland to provide catering and hospitality services for Belfast Waterfront and sister venue Ulster Hall and a further four visitor attractions including Belfast Zoo, Belfast Castle, Malone House and the Stables coffee shop in Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park.

The secret? We love what we do – our passion underpins everything we do, whether winning new clients or inspiring apprentices on their first steps on the catering ladder. Getting young people excited about catering and the fantastic opportunities it can bring is surely the best way to ensure a future pipeline of talent – a responsibility that lies with the whole catering industry to make a reality.