More and more young people eyeing a career in catering are entering competitions like the Hamburg and German Youth Championships or the service competition “Goldene Flammbierpfanne”. Many committed trainees are demonstrating willingness to perform in these contests, which are becoming recruiting pools for employers. Given the acute shortage of skilled workers, most employers are not spoilt for choice.
Testing skills in contests
Although restaurant professionals have to master flambéing, carving or filleting, these skills are not in daily demand. While they are taught at vocational school, applying them during a contest can prove an entirely different affair. Julius Adolph, for one, believes that a competitive situation hones these skills and gives him more confidence. “I will never forget the mistakes I made during the competition.” However, his mistakes were probably few and far between as the 22-year-old, who began training as a restaurant specialist in Hamburg’s Grand Elysée in early 2018, won the Goldene Flammbierpfanne contest last year.
Giving hotel guests an unforgettable stay
Although each contestant flambés food using their own recipe and in front of strict jurors, Adolph sees the contest as a protected space in which he can prepare for real guests. “It is a small stage on which valuable experiences can be gained before dealing with real guests.”
Tough nuts – difficult guests
However, the contests do not teach trainees how to deal with difficult guests. How does Adolph deal with this challenge? “That sounds strange, but a bad-tempered guest is a stroke of luck for me. I like the challenge of serving a guest so well that he leaves a good tip and with a smile on his face.” Details are key to success and the contests often prove revealing. Trainees have plenty to learn in the run-up and have to give up most of their leisure. Yet, the rewards outnumber the sacrifices and consist of more, in-depth knowledge, new impressions and many valuable contacts through nationwide competitions.
Competitions as a recruiting tool
As a rule, employers lend their support to trainees by giving them time off and paying the entry fees. Naturally, employers are proud of excellent employees. But the competitions also help with recruiting, said Mina Lehmann, Personnel Manager at the Grand Elysée, as “winning the contests indicates successful and good training”.
Competition part of hotel life
Training at the Grand Elysée includes regular coaching, workshops and courses. The hotel has also adopted the idea of competition in its day-to-day training. “We have established departmental mentors for our trainees who help them during their training and prepare them for changes,” Lehmann explained. Performance is rated using a daily apprentice score. “This score ranges from one to six and is based on self-assessment and that of the department or shift manager. Emphasis is on what works well and what can be improved. Thus, trainees always know where they stand and where their talents lie. This in turn helps them to find options after their training,” said Lehmann. The concept seems to be paying off, as the rate at which Grand Elysée hires trainees after their apprenticeships is 70 per cent.