The Malcolm John Phoenix Initiative is an unpaid, three-month apprenticeship for 16 to18-year-olds, with the top apprentice earning themselves a job at the restaurant.
“First and foremost – it will teach them life skills,” John told BigHospitality. “Learning to get on with others, learning to get up in the morning and come in on time and ultimately giving them a sense of respect.
“And then I can start to teach them kitchen skills – how to use a knife, how to work during service. At the end of it one of them will be offered the full-time role.
John had to close and board up his two Croydon restaurants, Le Cassoulet and Fish & Grill, for three days during the London riots. And this formed the inspiration behind the Phoenix Initiative.
“Prior to the riots, most of us were just plodding along thinking everything was ok,” he added. “When the riots directly affected me, I thought I had to do something about it and make some sort of difference.
“We lost most of August’s trading figures because of the incident and I don’t want to see it repeated. So I thought I would put my hat in the ring to try and make a small change.”
Last month BigHospitality reported on the discussion How to Successfully Recruit: Top Tips on Attracting Talent, which took place at the Restaurant Show. John believes that a combined effort from fellow restaurant owners and the Government is needed to allow more talent to break through.
“It’s at a critical point now. We all have to make a change and begin doing something different, otherwise the skill level and the amount of people coming through is going to completely dry out.
“I think some sort of government scheme is needed, whereby they give tax breaks for employers that employ youngsters and get them off the street. Restaurant owners need an incentive to do it. Hence the reason why my scheme is unpaid.
“But if I can help to turn the life of one youngster around, it will give me great satisfaction.”
The Malcolm John Phoenix Initiative is inviting applications now. Once all applications are in, the four apprentices will be whittled down through an interview process.