Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants managing director Patrick Dempsey has revealed the Premier Inn operator is considering introducing a London living wage and urged fellow hospitality employers to join The Big Conversation to talk about jobs and apprentices in the industry.
Last month InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced it would become the first hotel chain operating in the capital to offer a London living wage to staff working in its managed venues.
The phased pay rises will see IHG employees earning £8.30 - the minimum rate the Living Wage Campaign, founded in 2001, says workers need to 'provide their family with the essentials of life'.
Speaking at the British Hospitality Summit at the IHG venue in London's Park Lane, Dempsey confirmed his firm was open to following suit and was exploring the logistical options of doing so.
"It is something we are looking at; we want to work towards paying that. I think inevitably we will pass some of that onto the customer but I think it is the right way to go. What we need to remember is in London people earn fairly good tips but it is the housekeeping staff we need to think about," he said.
The Big Conversation
Dempsey also announced the launch of an industry-wide forum to discuss what hospitality employers were doing to help support apprentices, youth unemployment and structured work experience placements and urged other employers to join The Big Conversation.
The former Restaurant Associates chief executive revealed Whitbread was being joined by Thistle and Guoman Hotels and Springboard for the event on 11 July to share best practice. The forum is designed to emulate other sectors which have already carried out similar initiatives with the Learning and Skills Council.
"Across other industries there are something like 200,000 work placements happening this year and I think in our industry there are lots of work placements but maybe they are not structured so how can we get 20-50,000 structured work placements in the hospitality industry," he said.
Dempsey told BigHospitality he hoped 50-60 employers would join the event to create work placements and commit to employing a greater percentage of young unemployed people. He added that with more similar events with the BHA around the country it could help the leverage the industry has with Government.
"How do we collaborate and bring things together so the BHA has a stronger voice? If the BHA can show what hospitality is doing in employment and say the industry has employed 100,000 of the million unemployed people that gives us far more strength to go and lobby about VAT and other things," he said.
Dempsey was speaking at a panel event at the summit alongside Robin Rowland from YO! Sushi who agreed that the hospitality industry needed to be better at selling itself and sharing its success stories.
"Retailers don't employ anything like as many people but they get far too much airplay. Our business is so sexy and exciting with so many great brands and stories but we are absolutely lousy at actually putting ourselves in front of media," he said.
During the discussion Rowland also said the recession had been beneficial in increasing the amount of talented people looking for employment and the UK education system had failed hospitality but the industry could change the negative perception of hospitality jobs. Dempsey also suggested the economic environment had, at least in part, been beneficial for the sector.
"The difficulty in the marketplace today in property has opened opportunities for us. Never before would I have got space in London for hotels but we opened up in Leicester Square recently. There is a really good environment today and I think we should celebrate it a bit more and I think it is a real disappointment that we haven't got better representation here today from Government," he concluded.