Training for consistency: pubs

Ann Robertson and Matthew Ingram, the first two apprentices to complete the BII's Licensed Hospitality Apprenticeship Level 2 training scheme

As is the case with restaurants and hotels, the pub sector is made up of a range of varying sizes of business, from the individually-owned freehold pub employing a handful of staff members, to the multi-site operator with thousands of recruits. 

Each scenario has its own challenges when it comes to training staff, but what is apparent is that the pub sector has been making huge efforts recently to invest in staff, recognising that talent needs to be attracted to the industry, then nurtured in order to be retained. 

Speaking out at the BII’s National Licensed Hospitality Apprenticeships Summit earlier this month chief executive Peter Thomas said there was a need to develop a training scheme to help break ‘misconceptions’ about the pub industry being a temporary place to work.

“Many young people just see working in a bar as a student job to earn pocket money. Their parents usually share this negative opinion, and it is these barriers we need to overcome by getting the message out that apprenticeships in the licensed trade can lead to a very rewarding and fulfilling career,” he said. 


It was partly for this reason that the BII introduced the Licensed Hospitality Apprenticeship Level 2 training scheme. The scheme, launched in August last year, is designed specifically to help small pubs offer training to their staff, which could help retain them and ultimately make the business more profitable. 

The BII said generic hospitality apprenticeship programmes had been geared too much towards the hotel and restaurant sectors which meant that apprentices in the pub sector were not seeing the relevance of the qualification to their jobs, hence the need for a separate scheme. 

Chris Wood, publican at The Arrow in Eastleigh, Hampshire, was one of the first people to experience first hand how the new apprenticeship scheme could benefit a pub. One of his members of staff, Matthew Ingram, became one of the first people in the country to successfully complete the training two weeks ago. 

Ingram, together with Ann Robertson of The Tap in Portsmouth (both pictured, right), were given a nationally recognised qualification after taking the course through HTP Training and also received a Personal Licence. Wood says that makes it beneficial to not only the member of staff, but to their employer too. 

He says: "I have always looked to get new employees onto NVQ training, it's something I did when I was coming up through the ranks.

"There are many similarities between the NVQs and the BII Apprenticeship: it's solid, on the job training, teaching them key skills from line cleaning to cellar management, and so on. But, I believe, what you are awarded at the end of the Apprenticeship is far more beneficial."

Investing in people

While apprenticeships may be an effective starting point for those early on in their careers in the licensed sector, employers know they need to keep investing in their staff if they want to keep them motivated and build on skills which can ultimately bring consistency and excellence into their business.

Two pub companies of differing sizes - Hall and Woodhouse and Greene King - have both invested in managers at their pubs by allowing those interested in taking management qualifications to study for them.

For the last three years Hall and Woodhouse, which last year invested £200,000 in developing staff at varying levels, has supported selected managers through a three year Business and Hospitality Management degree course at Bournemouth University.   

The course teaches managers a range of skills within areas such as marketing and financial reporting which are designed to help them better develop their on-the-job skills as well as arm them with a new qualification. 

Greene King's scheme is a Level 5 Diploma in Management, which sees nine candidates from across its estate complete seven modules in areas such as people management, customer service and organisation. 

The course, which is run in conjunction with Charnwood Training Group, isn't quite a degree, but is nonetheless an effective way of combining learning and practical skills and ultimately develop employees.

"Our aim is not to just provide a 'pub job' but to offer a clear career path for our employees to become our house managers, regional managers, development managers and even directors of the future," says Jonathan Webster, managing director of Greene King's Destination Pubs and Restaurants division.  


For multi-site operators with large numbers of employees, ensuring that all members of staff are trained and developed in the right way is arguably more challenging, so if you’re in this situation, how can you be sure that every person you employ gets access to training? 

As the largest privately-held managed pub company in the UK, Stonegate Pub Company had that challenge on its hands. It operates 560 pubs across the UK and employs about 10,000 people in a range of roles, from bar staff to managers and senior operational staff. 

Earlier this year the company decided to introduce an online e-learning training programme which is designed to be used alongside more practical on-the-job training. 

The Albert’s Theory of Progression programme, as it is known, is separated out into sections depending on the level of the employee within the business. 

Workers login to their own accounts to complete short modules with Albert, a character developed based on Albert Einstein, guiding them through. 

Although they are given clear timescales within which to complete them, because it is online they can fit it into their own schedules and, as Lee Woolley, head of learning and development at Stonegate says, the presence of Albert makes it more fun and engaging. 

“We’re in the people business and we know our staff are brilliant at interacting with customers and delivering great service. So what we wanted to achieve with Albert was to bring a modern approach to the important business of learning and development but in a way that really enthuses and engages our people and plays to their strengths,” he says. 

“We’re delighted with the feedback for Albert so far by members. It’s a great training tool for the next generation of Stonegate employees, complimenting simply and efficiently alongside more traditional practical project based learning methods.” 

To read all our articles on training for consistency click here.

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