'It's not just, get the employees to make as much money as possible and when we're done with them just turf them out'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

As of January 2022, anyone working for The Seren Collection  will be offered four-day week contracts, with any hours worked on top of that paid as overtime.  

Though The Grove of Narbeth was already among the first to offer its chefs a four-day working week, introducing the policy in 2016, it will soon be joined by the rest of the hotel, as well as Michelin-starred, 3 AA Rosette Beach House Restaurant in Oxwich, Coast Restaurant and Kiosk café in Saundersfoot.

Additionally, team members will be placed on a profit sharing scheme, meaning any gains made by the business will be shared with them.

For Hywel Griffith, head chef and director at Beach House Restaurant in Oxwich, who led the team which earned it a Michelin star in 2019 and appeared on Great British Menu in 2020 and in 2021, the changes have been made possible by the hospitality group's successes.

"It's about time - the hospitality industry is being devalued by all of these buy-one-get-one-free offers and historically people have seen food as just food. But now, so many people enjoy eating out and are paying the premium that we feel we can push our businesses to be able to sustain that." 

"It's the right thing to do," he said, "gone are the days when we wanted staff to be working 80 plus hours a week." 

And to the naysayers who claim that this decision will lead to decreased quality of output he said, "the argument is that your standards go up because everybody won't be as tired." 

"It's better all round, and your guests at the end of the day will be served by a waiter who is fresher and enjoys their job, their food will be plated by someone who is happier, theoretically it should be a win-win all round." 

Under public scrutiny, not just because of the allegations about conditions and poor practices in prominent establishments that have recently emerged, but as a result of the difficulties the industry has faced due to the pandemic, he said, "people are more aware of what hospitality employees have to go through to produce what we do." 

"The past five years here have been very difficult," emphasising that "if they hadn't been difficult, we wouldn't have achieved what we've achieved, but going forward we're in a position where we can do this, and moving forward the industry is going to have to become more attractive to younger members of staff." 

Behind the vision are The Seren Collection's founders, Neil and Zoe Kedward, who, announcing the new measures, said they were "humbled each day" knowing that their success is down to the work of their team, who not only commit their time and skills to the group but are loyal to the restaurant group.

Hywel said the owners are "like everybody's mum and dad," in that "they really have got everbody's interests at heart," perhaps the key to what other companies need to do to attract and retain talent. 

"If they have an employee that's struggling or something, they take that person on and try to better them as well. It's not just 'get the employees to make as much money as possible and when we're done with them just turf them out,' there's none of that at all here." 

"And that's why I'm still here - I'm five and a half years in, which is good for a chef these days," he smiled.

This extends to his team too, who have been at his side for two, three, or even four years. 

"They really are dedicated and loyal, I couldn't ask them for more," he said.

Though they are braced for it to be difficult to bring them all down to four-day weeks because their restaurant is located, as he put it, "on a beach in the middle of nowhere," he continued, "the hope is that we will become more attractive and get to that stage. It's not going to happen overnight," hence the date being set for January 2022, not tomorrow.

"We want to transition to that as soon as possible," having already made the decision to close on Sunday evenings since they reopened in the spring. 

Ultimately, one must not forget that "running a restaurant is like a balancing act, like spinning plates, and I hope we can get it right to get it done."

"Every day is a Saturday now, we do as many tasting menus on Wednesday lunchtime as we do Saturday dinner, it's bloody brilliant," Hywel said.  

"I never thought five years ago that we'd be here - you always hope, you keep chipping away, trying to hit all corners, but you never expect this. It's just fantastic."

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 9th July 2021

'It's not just, get the employees to make as much money as possible and when we're done with them just turf them out'