The hospitality industry is facing many challenges and with Brexit on the horizon, things could be about to get even tougher. Strategic Consultant Kate Temple-Brown explains how the Apprenticeship Levy could help support the struggling sector.

The apprenticeship reforms could be the recipe for success for Britain’s restaurants, according to leading industry expert Kate Temple-Brown.

The Strategic Apprenticeship Levy Consultant believes restaurant chains need employees who excel in customer service to set them apart in a crowded market - and the Apprenticeship Levy could be the key to achieving this.

Kate, who runs Apprenticeship Levy consultancy Aequalis, has teamed up with Gradvert on an exciting new collaboration - Polaris - and hopes to revolutionise the hospitality industry from the ground up.

Polaris, the brainchild of Kate and Gradvert founder Michaela Reaney, is a registered apprenticeship training provider which aims to ‘apprenticecise’ leadership and customer service programmes with high-quality and cost-effective development pathways paid for through the Apprenticeship Levy.

A common misconception is that the Apprenticeship Levy is for school leavers but actually funds in the levy pot can be used for employees of any level to meet business needs.

With that in mind, the Polaris team have set their sights on delivering their outstanding, bespoke training to the restaurant sector.

Kate, who previously worked in early careers recruitment and development for Goldman Sachs, said: “There are a lot of roles in this country that are seen as entry-level, transient roles that are not important enough to properly train someone in that position.

“We want to professionalise roles such as waiters. When there is so much competition among restaurants, the impact of spending some time upskilling people in selling and customer relations is huge.”

With Brexit fast approaching and the prospect of fewer European workers, making these roles more attractive to Brits is also important.

Kate said: “This is a country that is led by the hospitality and leisure industry. We’re a tourist hub but we’re not getting the maximum benefit because often the people whom the tourists spend time with are undervalued and not empowered to give them a good experience.”

The apprenticeship reforms come at a time when a reported third of Britain’s biggest restaurant groups is loss-making, up by 75% in the past year, according to a study by accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

Kate said: “Restaurants now compete with take away deliveries so when someone has left their house to go somewhere, their experience is key. What you have to prove is that going out is better than sitting on your sofa and doing it online.

“I think what we’re seeing is that restaurants, particularly chains, are missing a trick in not realising that customer service, upselling and giving their staff the right skills is vital. It’s about making the experience stand out.

“This fundamental shrugging of the shoulders over high attrition rates and the view that there is no point training anybody because they leave is, unfortunately, just a race to the bottom.

“If your differentiating factor is customer service, then you will see everything else follow.”

In addition to creating a more engaged workforce and cutting staff turnover, companies who use the Apprenticeship Levy are not required to pay National Insurance for anyone they train aged under 25, saving 13% on their salary.

Polaris is one of the few training providers that allows clients to run pilots, allowing large restaurant chains to first test the benefits of the training in a few branches.

Kate said: “We’re confident we can demonstrate that Polaris can make a huge difference to your business, and we can also show you a cost-effective way to do it.”

About Temple Brown Consulting: A consortium of senior business leaders from the HR, Legal, Education & Technology world, collaboratively focused on sharing their expertise to build a commercially sustainable global professional network that closes the gap between business & education, leaving a lasting positive impression on the way we think about learning & development.

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