Richard Bainbridge, Jesse Dunford Wood: If your staff is getting poached, maybe you need to take a long hard look at your business

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

The staffing crisis is nothing new to the hospitality industry. 

"It's a bit like talking about Covid, innit, or talking about Brexit - and then let's talk about the staff shortages in the hospitality industry," Benedicts chef owner Richard Bainbridge said, in the latest episode of The Staff Canteen's Grilled podcast, where he and TSC editor Cara Houchen were joined by the chef and restaurateur behind Parlour and Six Portland RoadJesse Dunford Wood. 

A topic that has emerged in the headlines in the past few weeks, however, is that of operators poaching one another's staff to fill the vacancies in their own teams.

When asked about it, neither chefs seemed surprised by the practice, which has been happening for as long as they have been in the industry - and, in their opinion, is just part of the game.

'If we get amazing service, we'll just say, 'by the way, if you're ever looking, here's a number'

"If people want to leave and they're having a conversation with somebody else, that's not poaching, that's just having a conversation that might develop more towards your side than the other side," Richard said. 

"Our industry is about moving around and moving with people - when owners go after people and say, 'look, I'll pay you more money,' I think is a bit out of order. But if people are wanting to move on and move around - and at the moment, the opportunities are vast and wide everywhere, I think it's fair game."

Jesse said he and his wife aren't shy of doing so when they come across talent.

"If we get amazing service, we'll just say, 'by the way, if you're ever looking, here's a number.'" 

Comparing movement within the industry to football, and how players switching teams is a common occurrence, he said, "the thing is about teams is that teams change and teams evolve."

"Teams need to be rebuilt, so when David Beckham goes, you need to find somebody else, or when Joaquín goes, you need to find somebody else, or when Jaap Stam goes, you need to rebuild."

"It's just human life. Whatever you've got right now is not going to stay there for ever and ever."

"There's always going to be change and you kind of have to just accept it, because you can't fight it, you can't get too emotional about it."

That's not to say ruptures aren't painful, but when members of your team do move on, he said, "you do have to be grown up enough to listen to the reasons, think about your company and your structure, your offer, what you do and how you do it." 

"It is a bit humbling sometimes - because you know there are way better places out there doing way better things with way better conditions and way better money, so - what's the reason for them to be here?" 

"You need to give people a reason to want to be here and stay here." 

'Whatever s**t we're in now, we'll be out of it sometime soon'

And just as it is essential not to take it too personally, it's important to know how to regroup and move on, if nothing else, to keep the rest of the crew's spirits up.

"When a few people leave, it's a bit shocking for the whole team, because it leaves a void, and then you've got to train the new people, and everyone's a little bit anxious, and it's up to you to keep it positive and to keep the drum banging and keep the motivation up," he said. 

"It is tricky, but we'll get over it. I'm experienced enough to know that whatever s**t we're in now, we'll be out of sometime soon. It might get a little bit harder, but it will come good at some stage. Just keep at it and it will come. Just believe." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 21st April 2022

Richard Bainbridge, Jesse Dunford Wood: If your staff is getting poached, maybe you need to take a long hard look at your business