Speaking at the UK Hospitality Summer Conference King said he’d been reading about the sector prior to the event and said the narrative would be off putting to anyone looking to start a career in the sector.
“If I’m a young kid, what I’m reading is a relentlessly negative narrative. Stories saying 20% of hospitality businesses are going to go bust in the next 12 months, I understand why politically that’s important, but it’s horrible if you’re 18 years old.”
Hold politicians to account
He also said perspective was also important, particularly around issues like anti-social hours of work: “If it’s a story that says this is an industry that has to fight its anti-social hours challenge, if you’re 18, they’re not anti-social hours. Every 18 year old I know thinks 3am in the morning is a perfectly social hour!
He said he understood that it was difficult for trade associations that needed to hold politicians to account, but said things needed to change: “But if you’re number one issue is talent, you’ve got to find a way to change that narrative.”
Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality CEO, accepted the point: “I agree with him, I’m usually the one exhorting people to stop talking down our industry. We do tend to be very good at talking about the pay, hours, hard work and challenges. Nobody else is going to talk our industry up.
But she said there needed to be balance to get some of the messages to the politicians through.
“What we need to be talking about and translating through is the fact that at the moment, there are forces outside of our control that are making these businesses, that would otherwise be viable, would otherwise be fine, would otherwise be investable, and would otherwise be investing massively.
“So I think you can do both, but it’s timely reminder from Justin that we do need to be more positive and more optimistic and present the opportunities that our businesses provide because there is no other sector that will get you from zero to management in less than two years and it’s a better job than retail!”