Time to ring the changes?

Career prospects in Scotland’s hospitality industry are bright, say pub groups

• A growing number of people view the licensed trade as a long-term career option.
• A growing number of people view the licensed trade as a long-term career option.

THE start of a new year can often be a time of reflection.

And while many people will turn their attention to the more traditional new year’s resolutions, for others, it’s a time to assess career opportunities.
The good news is – whether it’s bar or waiting staff looking to move up the ladder or a manager keen to take on their own business – career prospects in Scotland’s hospitality industry have scarcely been brighter.
That was the message from pubcos, training providers and hospitality organisations contacted by SLTN last week, who said increased focus and investment in staff training and development in recent years has played a key role in enhancing perceptions of the licensed trade as a long-term career option.
“I think the industry represents a great opportunity for people of all ages, and the attitude to the sector as a profession is maturing rapidly,” said David Cochrane, chief executive of hospitality industry charity and scholarship provider HIT Scotland.
It’s a view shared by Joanne Worrall, director of Twist Training, who said an increasing number of people are “actively choosing” the licensed trade as a career.
“There are very few careers out there where you have to have a head for every aspect of business, be able to offer great customer service, keep tight controls on budgets, have a flair for the creative and get to work in a great atmosphere,” she said.
“Whether a part-time job to build your confidence or a full-time career to experience how to run a business – you couldn’t get better experience than working in the licensed trade. Career prospects are better than ever before.”
Worrall’s sentiments were echoed by Lesley Welsh, operations director at Iona Pub Partnership, who said the trade is viewed as a “far more serious and professional career choice” than before.
“Companies have put in place more robust and better training plans, which give far better opportunities to help individuals improve their skills and develop within the business,” she said.
“It’s now seen as a serious career, which is evidenced in how the industry now looks at recruiting new candidates, in a more professional manner.”
It seems a professional approach is also being adopted by prospective pub tenants, who Welsh said are taking more time to fully prepare business plans and complete due diligence, which she said benefits both parties.
The pubco, whose estate stands at 110 outlets, has also ramped up the support it offers lessees, according to Welsh.
“Iona is focused on making sure we recruit the right person for any specific pub and that they understand the level of commitment and responsibility involved in order to ensure they also make the right decision,” she said.
“This means that the recruitment process may take longer, but that both parties are satisfied it’s the correct decision and fully prepared to operate and drive any business in question.”
Ken McGown, retail development director at Star Pubs & Bars, which operates 150 pubs in Scotland, said the number of people applying to take on a lease with the firm increased again last year – growth he attributes to the high level of support and flexible lease deals offered by the pubco.
“It is a good time for those considering a leased business,” he told SLTN.
“We’re seeing people from a range of backgrounds; we’ve seen more interest from people who have been in the free-trade and there are general managers who see the next stage in their career as taking on a lease.
“But just because people have experience, it doesn’t mean they are fast-tracked. Everyone has to go through the same process and we offer a high level of support.”
A strong appetite for pub leases was also reported by Craig Bruce, director of Glasgow-based Rosemount Taverns, which has 50 outlets across Scotland.
He said a growing number of people view the industry as a “long-term career choice”, and advised those considering leasing a pub to do their homework first.
“As with any career, research the sector, obtain experience within it, undertake relevant training and try to make sure it is right for you before committing excessive time and money to it,” said Bruce.
Simon Longbottom, MD of Greene King Pub Partners, also highlighted the importance of pairing the “right person to the right pub”.
“Passion, determination and business acumen in my mind make the best pub operators and not necessarily experience,” he said.
“There is opportunity for anyone looking to develop their career if they have these absolutely key attributes.”
Gayle Johnstone of Tennent’s Training Academy agreed, saying staff development is key.
“We see hundreds of individuals coming to the academy who are enthusiastic and motivated, and with the right courses and skills development with our experienced trainers, we demonstrate how the hospitality industry can provide people with a diverse, dynamic and long-term career,” she said.
The importance of training was underlined by Colette Fellows, head of central property at Punch Taverns.
“It is a challenging industry to break into and launch a business, but with agreements like the Punch Foundation Tenancy, Punch gives those looking to enter the industry the support and training to compete in a tough market and grow a successful pub business,” she said.