Hospitality Management Lecturer Crispin Farbrother stays at Channel 4’s Hotel GB

Last week, Hospitality Management lecturer Crispin Farbrother got the opportunity to stay in Channel 4’s Hotel GB. We asked him for his response on staying at the hotel and here is his response:

SO here it is, my final reflective comment about Hotel GB following my stay there and watching the series on TV.

I would give it high marks for what appears to be honourable intentions in raising the issue of getting unemployed youngsters into work and the variety of opportunities that hotels can offer. I would offer high marks for the attempt to raise money for two very good charities. Springboard in particular has little presence outside of the hospitality industry.

Hosting the programme inside a real hotel in London ensured that that there was realism for the trainees chosen and having core staff behind the scenes helped the hotel keep running for the benefit of the guests staying there.  I appear to be saying that all is good so far and I am.  I was looking forward to staying at Hotel GB and had in mind Michel Roux’s very successful programme Service.  Having celebrities involved appeared to be positive as they can pull in viewers and Gordon Ramsey and Gok Wan have some credibility in our industry. I was looking forward to eating in a Ramsey Kitchen.

So what went wrong?  Having Ramsey claim that the youngsters were going to get a year’s experience in one week was a bizarre statement to make.  I do not know of anyone who would support this claim.  Intensive? It certainly was.  This is also called dropping them in the deep end, and some of the youngsters certainly were dropped in the deep end. I saw very little training in action in the hotel and on TV.  After a few days some of the trainees did start to shine with Emily and Gun recognised early on as having natural skills in their areas.

The programme did highlight many issues that arise when working within or running hotels though the programme missed many opportunities to go into these in more detail.   Some examples are perhaps with Tom and Rory and Phil Spencer. Tom was struggling with his customer service skills on reception and he was asked to clean a room in ten minutes. What a strange request and to prove the point fifty minutes later the room was still not clean. It showed that hard work, efficiency and attention to detail are required in our industry.  Phil Spencer is not a trained Maitre D and putting him in charge resulted in chaos on more than one evening.  My own experience of Phil showed him to be a nice guy, but he needs a few weeks in our training restaurant here at Bournemouth University before he should be let loose again. It also showed that Will could do a far better job, however he also needs training.  A suit and tie does not make a man a manager!   Experience, technical knowledge and management skills are needed here.  This was further evidenced when Rory was thrown into the restaurant.   This was nothing less than cruelty.  Gordon and Mary then showed their own lack of management skills in the way they dealt with the issue. This same poor management was mirrored by Kim when talking to Kerry and Patrick who wanted more experience and responsibility. On more than one occasion the manager’s communication or lack of it put the trainees under more pressure than was really necessary. The programme, for me, highlighted the fact that well trained hospitality graduates are need in our industry. 

It is clear that the programme was trying to be too many things…. Either it was about hospitality apprentices, the celebrities who had most airtime or it was about the charities.  However with the cameras there it also became a programme about celebrity or wealthy guests who were happy to “tip” £1,000. Good for Springboard and The Prince’s Youth Trust but in no way realistic.

In summary I am disappointed to have spent a few hundred pounds and 5 evenings of my life involved in what resulted in a complete fiasco adding little to no value to our industry’s needs to employ good enthusiastic young people.

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