‘Raw talent and aptitude more important than school grades’ for a career in hospitality

Young people hoping to start a hospitality career have been advised that a high level of enthusiasm and raw talent are the keys to success, rather than their academic performance.

The advice comes from Jeremy King, chief executive of Rex Restaurants – owners of The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Colbert and Brasserie Zedel – who believes the hospitality industry offers young people from all backgrounds the chance of quick progression to management positions.

"Ours is an industry in which raw talent and aptitude is far more important than the grades you got at school," the London Evening Standard quotes him as saying.

"I started on the lowest rung, as a barman in a Chelsea wine bar, never thinking it would be more than a stop-gap job before university. But I was promoted and decided to forgo university, became a manager at 21, opened my first restaurant, Le Caprice, at 27, then a few years later, The Ivy, and I've never looked back."

Mr King was speaking after signing up to the Standard's Ladder for London campaign, which encourages businesses to offer quality apprenticeships to young people in the capital.

As part of the scheme, the restaurateur has promised to employ 12 young people , the first time he has taken on apprentices, and pay them the London living wage, earning them up to £16,125 in their first year.

Addressing the new recruits at Brasserie Zedel, he encouraged them to "see themselves as they could be in ten years".

Mr King's comments were echoed by hotelier Henrik Muehle, who is also taking on apprentices for the first time as part of the Ladder for London campaign.

The managing director of the five-star St James's Hotel and Club also sees entry level hospitality jobs as providing youngsters with a path to bigger and better things.

"In our trade, it is best to learn from the bottom up through an apprenticeship," he told the Standard.

"I started as an apprentice at 19 and went from kitchen to housekeeping to reception. Today, I run a hotel with £8 million turnover and 86 staff.

Mr Muehle believes the greater use of apprentices by businesses can be an important factor in tackling the UK's currently high level of youth unemployment.

"I grew up in Germany, where they have one of the best apprenticeship programmes in the world, and that is a big reason why youth unemployment is so low," he said.

The key to turning a hospitality job into a successful career is passion and hard work, says the hotelier

Mr Muehle introduced his new apprentices to the company's marketing manager Benedetta Fullin. "Benedetta started as an apprentice," he told them, "and now, at 28, she's a manager.

"We can train you in the skills, but it's the passion to give somebody a great experience that we are after."

Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly common means of recruiting young people to the hospitality industry and provide a great alternative to higher education for those who decide to go straight into the workplace.

They can also be used to help more experienced workers develop their careers, with last month seeing the launch of the first level 4 apprenticeship scheme for the hospitality industry by the sector skills council People 1st.

The Higher Apprenticeship in Hospitality Management apprenticeship has been developed to bridge the gap between the supervisory skills gained in an apprentice's early career and the strategic management skills required to work at a senior level, said the organisation.

"Whereas intermediate and advanced apprenticeships focus on developing the front line and supervisory skills employers need within their organisation, the new framework will provide a clear career development path into management for learners," said Ruth Asker-Browne, who leads People 1st's apprenticeship work.

Berkeley Scott provides specialist advice and support to help you with hospitality careers