Training and development programme is key to restaurant's success
PUBLISHED: 16:56 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:56 12 October 2015
Running a restaurant is a tough business and nobody knows that more than Andy Witheridge who owns The Salty Monk in Sidmouth, Devon alongside wife, Annette. Over recent years, they have faced huge changes within the industry.
One of the things Andy and Annette do to ensure their restaurant’s success is to invest in training and development as part of a local school’s GCSE programme. Not only are they passionate about educating the next generation of chefs but also they believe that forging strong links with the local community is the best way to survive in the current climate.
The restaurant is now in its eighteenth year and has held two AA Rosettes for the past fourteen years; they must be doing something right! Here Andy explains why the school training programme is so important to the future of their business:
What have been the main challenges within the restaurant industry in recent years?
Everyone’s been hit by the recession. In particular, the Internet (with booking sites taking additional commissions) has affected overall profits. People’s expectations have changed; everybody wants everything instantly. Compared to what we were doing years ago, the difference is between night and day - so the business is evolving constantly.
How did you first get involved in the school programme?
We’re in our fifth year working with the King’s School in Ottery St Mary. It began with a very passionate cookery teacher, Deborah Capon, who redeveloped the GCSE course and thought it would be a good idea to involve a local restaurant with the school. They asked us to help and we were so impressed with what the teachers were doing that we offered the Salty Monk to assist them. As such, the students take over the whole restaurant for an evening and get the opportunity to cook for 50 people in a real-life situation, raising money for charity at the same time. I think on average we raise around £4,000 per year. Some of the money goes back into buying cookers and pans for the school, which is essential to keep the course going.
How does investing in the school GCSE program benefit your business?
Each Monday evening we hold development nights. One or two of the students come in when they’re working for competitions, such as Junior Chef of the Year, to offer their practice dishes to customers. We use the normal menu but then add these dishes on as specials so the students obtain feedback from the customers, which is invaluable to them.
It’s also great for our customers as they love talking to the students. The quality of the students’ cooking is so high, they think that making fresh pasta is the most natural thing in the world!
What will be the future for your business?
The main concern for the future of the restaurant trade is that corporate businesses are just completely taking over. More and more chains now cook in factories and central kitchens, which is obviously a lot more cost-effective. It’s very worrying especially when we’re trying to buy only local produce and still make a profit. We’re competing with those who can ship ingredients half way around the world for a fraction of the cost.
More important to us is that we source everything from independent suppliers. It’s all about supporting local businesses – we buy our meat from the local butcher, our fruit and veg from the local greengrocer, wine from local vineyards, etc. All our suppliers are based in Devon. We all have to support each other and by supporting the GCSE programme in the local school, we’re helping to bring the next generation of chefs into restaurants.
We’re so passionate about what we do and we believe that by supporting the local community we shall ensure The Salty Monk’s future success.
For more information on the Salty Monk, or to book, visit www.saltymonk.co.uk