The importance of training from within has never been more acute as demand for catering staff for high quality restaurants continues to increase dramatically, according to Searcys St Pancras Restaurant’s operations director.
‘It is very hard to find people already trained with the current restaurant and bar industry in London so we need to emphasise our own internal training much more than we used to,’ Joel Claustre told Imbibe. ‘Compared to the 1980s and 1990s, the demand for catering staff has increased dramatically with rise and rise of the volume of high quality restaurants.
‘In simple terms, there are not enough trained staff for the number of positions in the restaurant world today, so you have to recruit team from the beginning of their journey in hospitality, get them to understand the basics and teach them and grow your own people within your business. Many of our best senior team have grown through the business this way having started as a commis waiter.’
As far as Claustre is concerned, his staff should not be serving a product – whether that be food or wine – they have insufficient knowledge of.
With the level of competition increasing dramatically and consumers in London dining out two or three times a week, the operations director says there has been an improvement in the quality and volume of restaurants.
‘Consumers are therefore demanding higher standards as they become ever more educated in food and beverages. In response, we are having to rely even more on training, which adds other pressure on the importance of building the right team in an overcrowded restaurant market,’ he says.
‘The other pressure is the recent price increases in food and drinks through FX shifts and general cost of goods inflation. As the menu prices have increased, consumers are more challenging around the quality of their overall experience and require the highest standards of service. The new value demand from consumers can only truly be met through great service.’
Feasts and drinking treats
Based in amidst the hubbub that is the exquisite St Pancras, Searcys’ customers are rather unique in their wants and needs. They might be in a rush, or had a cancellation delay them for an eternity.
Claustre says the grandeur of the station and his beautiful restaurant and bar make people feel it is special moment whether they are heading to Belgium or Nottingham. ‘The feeling that “I’m on my way” or “I’ve arrived” means people do feel it is a treat and want to indulge a little. Things also start early here as for breakfast easily 5 or 6 tables enjoy champagne for breakfast.’
The team’s new menu, named Passport for obvious reasons, is a showcase of 10 serves inspired by the cocktail and train world’s history. ‘We wanted to make sure that our cocktails had a relationship to the restaurant look and feel, and were inspired by Martin Buseski’s stunning Art Deco inspired design,’ Claustre explains. ‘With this era firmly in our minds the serves have been directly inspired by the recipes of the iconic cocktails of the 1920s.’
The Heady Highlandman, for example, celebrates the train which journeyed from Fort William to St Pancras. The peaty whisky used is distilled near the train’s departure location (see what they did there?).
‘There is no point putting effort into creating an amazing food menu if you do not identify drinks that will match, or more importantly enhance the dishes,’ the operations director says. ‘A drink will tend to bring out different flavours or enhance specific flavours of the dish depending on how the pairing has been done.
‘Another important consideration is the beginning of the meal – that aperitif moment sets the palate perfectly for the meal ahead – a Negroni and a simple glass of champagne.’