Why is British service so awful compared to Europe?

Poor service can also stem from poor management, and that’s been a British issue long before Brexit. It just hasn’t been seen as an appealing job. The industry is working to make that change. but it’s going to take years, and more respect from the top of the food chain for new recruits. Kate Nicholls wants to see the Government streamline many more post-16 qualifications with a focus on the industry. She also points to Hospitality Rising – an industry-wide initiative to promote recruitment – as a way forward.

Bad service, of course, isn’t limited to our shores. Just jump on the Eurostar and go to Paris for lunch, where the Gallic shrug and indifference is as omnipresent as steak tartare and frites. Fly to LA or New York you’ll get a song and dance of enthusiasm, born from a necessity to supplement shoddy wages with tips, but it’s as fake as the food is over-sweetened.

The reality will always be that for most people, working at Wagamama for a while isn’t the start of a career, but a means to an end. So, all things considered, surely the goal should be flawless and invisible service? Competence should be achievable. No one goes out to make friends with a waiter or concierge, you just want everything you ordered to arrive in a timely fashion, and don’t want to go home annoyed. Anything else is gravy. But the reality is, like a lot of things we love, from tea to wagyu, that gravy needs to be imported. Competence comes from numbers. As Kellie Rixon, Chair of the Supervisory Board for the Institute of Hospitality says: “The talented and hardworking EU work force has been an integral part of what we do in the UK sector. This crisis needs to be addressed immediately. We need more flexibility for seasonal and casual workers from across the EU. The incredibly challenging processes of hiring these essential workers need to be lifted. ”

Margot Henderson is optimistic that we won’t go back in time 30 years, however. “We are in tricky but exciting times,” she says. “There is so much energy going into the food. Chefs are working hard to produce the best they can. The front of house has stepped up too. We just need… more! “

The hotel school that makes the staff who get it right

In hills overlooking the city is Switzerland’s prestigious EHL Hospitality Business School, founded in 1893 as the École Hôtelière de Lausanne and widely regarded as the Oxbridge and Ivy League of hotel schools, with alumni that form a who’s-who of the luxury hotel world. The nearby five-star Beau Rivage Palace is managed by one of its graduates, while in London the Goring’s third-generation owner Jeremy also honed his craft here.

I spent several days at its campus learning what the future of hospitality will look like. More than 2,000 students, mostly aged 18-22, attend from over 120 countries, paying around £ 140,000 for the four-year course. Only half go on to the world of hospitality when they graduate, with the other 50 per cent snapped up for high-flying jobs in banking, industry, commerce and fashion. “There’s plenty of daddy’s money around” an Italian student told me, “but there are also plenty of people who work damn hard just to be here.”

The course, in either English or French, covers every aspect of life in a hotel, from making beds to marketing, placating grumpy guests and waiting tables at on-site Le Berceau de Sens: the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the world where the staff are brand new every week.

Knowing this, I forgave them for the almost hour-long gap between main and dessert when I dined there. The food itself was sublime; pâté en crôute of wild boar, and duck with crispy pumpkin crust.


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