Restaurateur wants starring roles for waiters

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One of Scotland’s leading restaurant owners has warned that the vital role of waiters is being overshadowed by the glamour surrounding the culture of top chefs.

Shirley Spears, co-owner of the renowned Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye, says young Scots should be encouraged to take jobs as waiters and waitresses as they are skilled positions that currently get less credit than they deserve.

“For far too long, we have neglected the importance of the role of the waiter in our restaurants,” she said, writing in Scotland on Sunday. “Chefs are rarely seen by their adoring customers. They are working on the other side of the swing door and not on centre stage, in the limelight, in the theatre that is a restaurant on a busy night.

“Being a waiter [I mean waitress, too] is a starring role, with highly professional skills and experience required to take the best people to the top of the game.”

She revealed that leading restaurants and hotels find it hard to recruit staff with a true passion for the trade, adding that a good waiter needs to be a “brilliant” communicator, a “wonderful” host with good knowledge and have “outstanding” organisational skills.

“Much more than this, a good waiter becomes an ambassador for his or her restaurant or hotel, its location and, above all, an ambassador for Scotland,” she said, adding that fears over a life of isolated locations, separation from family and questions over accommodation often deterred people from exploring a waiting career.

“With so many fixed working practices in place, such as working times, minimum wage, statutory holidays, etc, all of which every business must adhere to … we can no longer have fingers pointed at our industry as being unworthy for bright, ambitious young Scots.”

Spears, whose restaurant has held three red AA rosettes for 11 years and has is described in the current AA Hotel and Restaurant Guide as an “Inspector’s Choice”, said she wanted to launch a campaign to remove the stigma surrounding waiting jobs.

“My mission is to create a better status for this exciting trade,” she said. “For too long, it has been looked down upon by too many, including teachers, parents and young people who believe – incorrectly – that it is a lowly profession and not worth considering.”

Spears is to present her views at the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland Emerging Talent Conference on Tuesday at the Glasgow Science Centre.