Happy New Year to you all! I hope that the festive period was profitable and enjoyable for everyone.

What an honour it is to be asked by Claire to contribute to Chef & Restaurant UK on a subject that I am so passionate about. A subject that will concern each and every reader of the publication; your team, your people.

I would imagine if we took a straw poll asking what griped you the most about your businesses, staffing issues would feature high up most people’s list. In this section of the magazine I will be covering a wide range of issues affecting staffing and people. From successful recruitment to increasing staff retention, on-boarding and training to engagement and development. The pieces will be relevant to managers and owners (of course), but also to their teams and employees.

People and staffing within hospitality is my passion. So, here is a quick introduction of who I am.  My name is Conrad Brunton, and I am a native Brummie. I head up Tonic Talent, a specialist recruitment company for the catering and hospitality industries. Putting the right people into the right places is our forte.

However, Tonic was not where it all began for me. I started working in the hospitality industry at the tender age of just 14. I have covered roles from KP to GM and everything in between, both front and back of house. I studied my degree in Hospitality and Food Management, gaining a 1st class (Hons) from University College of Birmingham (UCB), and then went on to forge a successful career in front of house management. After going through the Mitchell and Butler graduate scheme, I eventually set up my own business; a quality led Fish & Chip restaurant / take away which was named No.1 in England by Seafish in 2010.

Heading back to my study days, but this time in the role of lecturer, I enjoyed a two-year stint back at UCB where I was inspired by the drive, passion and quality of a number of the students, many of whom I am still in touch with. Engaging with the future of the industry was brilliant and is something that I still do to this day in my role as a mentor for Springboard – something I would encourage everyone to do to help to safeguard the hospitality and catering professionals of tomorrow.

My career in hospitality and catering recruitment began in 2012, and I started Tonic 4 years ago. Tonic was set up to be different, to really listen to the desires and needs of both candidates and clients. We are open, honest and transparent.

I also orchestrate a networking group in the Midlands for catering and hospitality professionals. C.H.E.F (Catering Hospitality Education Forum) welcomes guest speakers and industry influencers. We host regular meetings to share knowledge and discuss best practice.

I will be using the experience and knowledge gained from my time in the industry, coupled with my time in recruitment to bring you some new ideas for improving your businesses people function. I will also be reaching out to the leading thinkers within the industry and picking their brains. What works well for them? What have they put in place that has been particularly effective?

No matter the scale of your organisation or how long you have been operating, I will bring ideas that you can easily implement to make improvements. We are all aware that there is a drastic staffing shortage within the trade, so I look forward to helping not only your business but also the wider industry. The hospitality industry must be viewed as an attractive sector to be in. Catering and hospitality is a great place to work, and a fun and rewarding industry to be part of. No matter if you are a student covering your bills while you study, a young apprentice who is just starting your career or an experienced professional with many years under your belt – everyone should be able to work in a place that is enjoyable which results in them having an overwhelmingly positive view of the trade. This is everyone’s responsibility, not just managers and business owners. 

I welcome you to get in touch with ideas you would like to see in future editions. There could be an area of concern that you would like us to investigate further. You might have implemented something really effective within your business or have a specific issue that you would like to highlight for further discussion. Please feel free to contact me on conrad@chefpublishing.com

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