“Crisis spells opportunity” at Institute of Hospitality Student Forum

>>“Crisis spells opportunity” at Institute of Hospitality Student Forum

Brexit uncertainty means there are plenty of opportunities for UK hospitality management students today. In a buyer’s market, pay rates are up and the recruitment process is a two-way street where the right candidates can expect training and career progression.

This was the message at the Institute of Hospitality London Branch’s 14th Student Learning & Development Forum. Speakers and panel discussions provided students and graduates with valuable insights into hospitality careers and how to get ahead. The event took place at the IOD, London on Monday 28 January.

Michael Gray FIH MI, former general manager of The Churchill, told attendees: “You are joining at a difficult time. Because of Brexit, people are leaving because they don’t necessarily feel welcome. As a result, pay rates are going up and there are lots of vacancies.”

Quoting former US president Barak Obama, Gray said: “A crisis is a terrible opportunity to miss” and that, in the Chinese language, crisis is a composite of two words: danger and opportunity. He also said he thought hotels had become “a bit boring” and encouraged the next generation to be innovative and “liven things up.”


Whatever happens with Brexit, the UK economy will continue to heavily depend on its service industries, said Alastair Storey OBE FIH, president of the Institute of Hospitality and chairman and chief executive of WSH. He told students: “You are the future. We need you. We must think globally and seek out who is the best and look at the competition and see how we can be better than them. We need energy, commitment and open minds.”

Two-way street

Liz McGivern FIH, vice President of people and culture, Red Carnation Hotels underlined how recruitment was a two-way process. She advised candidates to demonstrate the following:

  • Aptitude to learn
  • Hard work
  • Professionalism – energy, enthusiasm, smile
  • Set objectives and communicate them
  • Ask questions
  • Get involved and be interested (even when you’re not feeling it) – put the show on!

In return, successful candidates with Red Carnation Hotels can expect:

  • Regular feedback
  • Encouragement to reach their full potential
  • Time to be involved in ‘working life’ interests
  • Being shown a career path
  • Fair pay and work/life balance
  • Ongoing learning and development
  • A company that cares

Attendees heard that hospitality groups are not short of job applications. The Savoy receives 2,000 a month, for example. Paul Evans FIH, chair of the Institute’s London Branch, asked: “With so many applicants, why are there still vacancies?”

“It’s about fit. If you are a blanket application, we will see that. People apply for roles they don’t necessarily want,” said James Godwin MIH, head of people development, CH&Co. And they also do not always turn up for interviews.  Edward Gallier MIH, head of learning and development at Jurys Inn, said the company uses algorithms to weed out online applications that do not match the job description before an HR person even looks at them.

How to stand out

In order to stand out, Julia Fowler of new luxury property L’oscar Hotel, said applications should be personal ( find out exactly who is recruiting and send a personal email), to-the-point and with absolutely no spelling mistakes! Other ways of standing out were to call or come in personally, or create a video of yourself.


The importance of diversity and inclusion was highlighted during the Forum. 58% of the UK hospitality workforce is female, but less than 20% of management roles are held by women. This statistic has not changed in 20 years and companies will lose their credibility if they don’t deliver on diversity and inclusion, warned Serena von der Heyde FIH, owner of Georgian House.

Diversity matters because the UK is a diverse country, she said: “It is one of our selling points and companies with diverse personnel are much closer to their customer base.” Research shows that companies with a mix of men and women at senior levels are more successful, she added.


Gregory Hall MIH, senior operations manager, Bartlett Mitchell, added that young people are looking for companies that embrace diversity and inclusion. Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing individual differences. These can be related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Inclusion means focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.

Hall quoted the comedian Deborah Francis White: “Diversity is inviting everyone to the party. Inclusion is asking everyone to dance.”

More than 200 people attended the Institute of Hospitality Student Learning & Development Forum 2019. Students came fom Bournemouth University, Oxford Brookes University, Coventry University, University of East London, University of West London, Anglia Ruskin University, Glion Institute of Higher Education, University of Brighton.

The event was generously supported by the following sponsors: Institute of Directors, Benugo, Oxygen, Graphico Printing, NS International, Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

View and download photos from the day