Riette Carter is HR Manager at ETM Group – one of London’s most renowned pub and restaurant groups. Responsible for leading a customer service masterclass for the contestants at the Toque d’Or Grand Finals, being part of the competition for the first time has been a career-defining experience.
Tackling the skills shortage
For me, the contribution that Toque d’Or makes to the industry is undeniable. At a time when the pubs and bars sector is facing a major skills shortage, Toque is giving youngsters coming up through the Industry the real life skills and support that they will need in their future careers. This kind of hands-on experience is invaluable!
At the Grand Finals, I led a masterclass in customer service, which involved mentoring the students through real life situations and giving them the tools they will need out there in the real world – how to tackle situations when things go wrong, how to deal with dramas that arise day to day etc. This isn’t something you can learn in a classroom!
It goes without saying that Customer Service is absolutely vital in our business. If you can’t execute it properly, you’ll stumble at the first hurdle. The best customer service is about teamwork - front of house and chef teams working together – and this is something that shone through at Toque d’Or. I was very impressed by how the student teams coped.
It is also fantastic to see so many different sectors being represented through the competition. This is so crucial for the pubs and bars Industry, because, as a sector, we are facing a major talent crisis. Out of the 450 people we employ at ETM, I can count on one hand the number who have come up through catering colleges. This needs to change.
This is why Toque d’Or is so important. Unlike other competitions, Toque shows future chefs and managers that there is more to hospitality than just fine dining and fancy restaurants. It broadens their horizons. Personally, I work in the pubs and bars Industry because I love it! This is what Toque does so well – it exposes students to the broad spectrum of opportunities that are out there for them.
Crucially, Toque also gives students an insight into what life will be like when they leave college. This is real life. This is what they are about to go into. They are given exposure to real pressures, real kitchens - service may go down or a wave of customers may come through the door at the same time - these are the kind of situations that happen!
Toque students will also leave the competition with a firm grasp of the importance of nutrition, health and wellness, and as an employer, I think this is incredibly important.
Diners today are far more aware of what they eat, and are more focused on nutrition than they were five years ago. As a business, we’ve responded to this and have built healthier options into our menus. For the next generation of chefs and managers, to have this embedded in their mindset is vital.