The year has, on the whole, been a good one for the hospitality industry. Restaurants have benefitted from a steady improvement in consumer confidence; hotels in London and the Provinces seem to have turned a corner after a sluggish start to the year; and pubs successfully campaigned for that all-important beer tax cut.
And all three sectors were able to benefit from a ‘record-breaking’ year for British tourism, helped by the successful capitalisation of the legacy of hosting the Olympics in 2012.
But the year wasn’t without it’s challenges. In this brief 2013 look-back, we’ve analysed the results of five BigHospitality Readers’ Surveys, to see what your hospitality business had to say about the year’s big issues.
1. Horsemeat scandal sparks mislabelling fear
The discovery of horse DNA in frozen beef burgers in January revealed a major breakdown in the traceability of the food supply chain. While not a ‘food safety’ issue, restaurant, hotel and pub owners were urged to take extra steps to know the provenance of the produce they are using to avoid being embroiled in future scandals.
One such potential scandal was in fish mislabelling, after a survey discovered that seven per cent of cod and haddock sold in restaurants was actually another species.
The report, by Salford University, was welcomed by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) as a ‘wake-up call for the industry’. So, BigHospitality asked for your opinion - Were you confident that the fish you serve in your restaurant, hotel or pub is labelled correctly?
… Apparently not, with the slight majority (53 per cent) of BigHospitality readers claiming the species of fish they served couldn’t be guaranteed with the current supply chain.
It should be noted that the UK industry is comparatively much better than other countries when it comes to seafood labelling, and the phenomenon is not a new one.
But for restaurants wanting to reassure diners and put their fish sourcing to the test, the SRA’s Sustainability Rating would be a good plaice to start - rewarding restaurants for having a written sustainable seafood sourcing guide, and for sourcing from British boats.
2. Minding the skills gap
As Restaurant magazine’s latest cover story points out, the rapid expansion of UK chains combined with a rise in standards has created a widening skills gap. The past 12 months have seen a number of initiatives launched to try and tackle the issue.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) kicked off its series of Big Hospitality Conversation events at the beginning of the year, providing an opportunity for young people to talk with key industry faces about a potential career in hospitality.
And just last month, BigHospitality took this behind-the-scenes look at Hospitality House, the Hospitality Guild’s new hub and training venue which aims to help the sector address its skills gap and nurture the talent of the future.
But what did you think about it all? Where do the problems lie; what needs to be done to ensure more talent is breaking through across the hospitality industry?
The co-owner of a restaurant and bar in Notting Hill told us he thought the recent flurry of single and dual-dish restaurants is changing the skill set of up-and-coming chefs - making it harder for more varied and traditional concepts to attract new talent. Did you agree?
In what was one of our most popular Readers' Polls of the year, almost half (43 per cent) of business owners said the biggest problem finding new staff is actually in the work ethic of the young people themselves, agreeing with the statement that 'the work ethic isn't the same as it used to be'.
3. New world order
Our most-read story of the year was again the announcement of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In the weeks ahead of the event in April, speculation was mounting - would Danish restaurant Noma be able to match El Bulli’s record of four years at number one?
The majority of you thought not – and you were right. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, was been named the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine, snatching top spot from Noma.
The below map shows where all of the top 50 restaurants in the world were placed.
For Britain, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013 didn’t make for such a good read. Once again, only three UK restaurants have made it into the World's 50 Best List - the joint lowest number in the list’s 11-year history.
4. Zero-hours contracts: A necessity?
The term ‘zero-hours contract’ generates more light than heat and is vague and unhelpful, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA), which earlier this year claimed that variable hours of work in hotels, restaurants and pubs across the UK were central to job creation and economic growth.
The debate over zero-hours contracts reached boiling point in August, with Business Secretary Vince Cable fearing they are being exploited, and research suggesting that a million people could be working under them – the hotel, catering and leisure industry makes up almost half of that number.
According to a number of leading organisations in the hospitality industry, there is a strong case for keeping the agreements, which do not oblige an employer to offer guaranteed hours of work. Did you agree?
… Yes. The majority of respondents (57 per cent) said flexible hours are necessary in the industry. Cable has since ruled out a complete ban on zero-hours contracts, saying they offered employers ‘welcome flexibility’. A 12-week consultation will be taking place early next year.
5. Personal licences: Scrapped?
The pub industry had reasons to cheer in 2013 – as previously highlighted, Chancellor George Osborne scrapped the beer duty escalator today and announced that beer duty would be cut by 1p in his 2013 budget.
Then, in the recent Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne promised pubs with a rateable value of under £50,000 a rebate of £1,000 over the next two years.
But there is one issue that continues to linger on: Personal licences. In September, the Government launched a consultation into whether personal licences should be abolished, enabling licensing authorities to apply relevant conditions to premises licences where appropriate.
But should such licences be abolished? How would it impact the trade, licensing authorities, residents’ groups and health organisations?
The vast majority (85 per cent) of respondents to our survey said ‘No’ – a review may be needed, but personal licenses shouldn’t be scrapped altogether.
And so to the year end. We hope it’s been a profitable one for your business and wish you the best of luck in 2014. But the 2013 review doesn’t stop here… Stay tuned to BigHospitality for a photo gallery counting down the top 10 hospitality news stories of the year.