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While the road to recovery has started, a lack of staff in the hospitality industry is a big issue for some, but as 1921 chef patron Zack Deakins explains, there’s so much job satisfaction to be had

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The road to recovery has begun.

For us, and for pretty much everyone I have spoken to within the hospitality industry, it has been a very bright start.

Months of people not being able to go to their favourite restaurant, to meet for a coffee or glass of wine with their mates, or just to enjoy not having to do the dishes for an evening has meant people flocking back to pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants. It’s lovely to see everywhere so busy again and the town buzzing with life. Guests coming through the doors, of course, means tills are ringing again – which will be a great relief for many – but the financial scars are not the only ones that have been left by a year of lockdowns.

Hospitality is a passion (48475403)
Hospitality is a passion (48475403)

The biggest issue facing the industry up and down the country is that of staffing our beloved venues. We have been exceptionally lucky in that the whole team returned from furlough raring to go and I am very grateful to them for that, but I know others have not been so lucky.

So staff move on and you just replace them right? . . . It really isn’t that simple at the moment. For as long as I can remember it has been difficult to find chefs, bar staff, and maître Ds (particularly good ones). The perceived view of horribly long days, working every evening and weekend and poor pay has long been putting people off pursuing hospitality as a career. The past year appears to have only made the situation worse.

It seems that a swathe of people has now left to pursue other jobs. I have heard a fair few stories of people that took jobs working in supermarkets or perhaps as delivery drivers and decided they would carry on with that. Perhaps it is because of flexible working hours, but I have to wonder is there the same job satisfaction? The joy in doing what you love to do.

Growing up I remember clearly being told “Find a job you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life”. It’s a phrase that has been adapted, re-used and quoted by a few people, but the meaning is always the same and it’s a good one. It certainly made my decision to continue my kitchen career a very easy one. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend all day doing their hobby? When you break it down, I essentially get to just play all day.

Of course, you have to be willing to put in the graft, but that’s where the satisfaction comes in. After all, nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

There has been lots of talk within the industry about how things must change. That pay should be better, that staff should have more time off and better working conditions. But to be honest, I think those changes are happening already.

The shortage of good workers has driven up wages and many businesses are now offering four day working weeks. We decided to do this back in September and it has been a really positive decision. The team is happier and more energized when they are here, which of course is only going to improve the end product as well.

Finally, that tough, hardcore, bully boy sort of atmosphere that people think of in kitchens – that many of us grew up in – is all but dead. We are a team and we support each other. The way of working is much more no man left behind rather than every man for himself. Even the youngest member of the team is treated with respect.

With all this in mind I would say it is actually a fantastic time to enter a career in hospitality. There are so many great opportunities around and with the right attitude the chance to progress up the ranks quickly.

We took on an apprentice chef in August last year and we are now looking for another apprentice to join our front of house team. It is great when you have someone with enthusiasm come in and the chance to pass knowledge on to them. At the end of the day, you can teach the skill but not the will. It will be exciting to see their careers progress.

If they take one thing away from their time at 1921, I hope it will be the passion and love for the job, because who wants to work for a living anyway.

Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.

Call 01284 704870

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