Restaurants urged to give youngsters a taste of the workplace

Date published: 19 March 2024

Food and philanthropy will be on many-a-mind during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Which is why Oldham social enterprise Upturn is urging eateries to do their charitable duty - and let young people see what it’s like to work in catering and hospitality.

Figures at time of writing indicate there are 7,000 UK vacancies in waiting tables alone.

And that list is being extended by graduates passing through on the way to other professions, and a lack of knowledge at high school level about the many skills and career paths open to young people working with food - so says Upturn’s co-founder, Anwar Ali OBE.

“We are certainly not short of young people wanting to go on placement in all kinds of trades - except catering,” said Anwar.

“There also isn’t exactly a queue of business opening their doors even for a day placement.

"Maybe they feel that waiting tables or greeting customers should be kept in the family or is a dead-end job.

"Nothing could be further from the truth, and so I am asking Muslims in the restaurant business to do their charitable Zakat by letting youngsters learn more.”

Being a chef, front of house receptionist, waiting tables, doing admin in eateries, and even washing dishes is an accessible job for practical young people, argue Upturn.

And since it is stuffed full of transferable customer skills, the sector can lead to careers in customer service, people management, running everything from a bakery to a mini market, health and safety (since this is so vital when managing food), nutrition and health, and even becoming a renowned cook.

“You can be sure that the Jamie Olivers and Gordon Ramsay’s of this world, began by learning everything about the kitchen and the preparation and serving of food,” added Anwar (pictured above).

"But I also wonder how many successful leaders, politicians and captains of business also started their working lives by waiting tables and washing pots?

"One of my first jobs was being a waiter working weekends at a local Indian restaurant.

"I learned a lot and was grateful for the opportunity to work and earn some money and that was my foundation and introduction to the world of work at age 16.”

Graduates have certainly been drawn to catering, largely to pay off debts.

Whilst Anwar admires their aptitude, he reminded restaurateurs in particular, that young people who were more hands-on are likely to stay loyal and deliver better value for money.

He said: “Give a young person a placement and they may move onto an apprenticeship, all the time earning and learning.

"You can mould them into just the kind of employee you are looking for, and I guarantee, they will stay longer.”

The Khau Galli restaurant in Royton has taken on placements from Upturn in the past, as part of a commitment to show charity to the needy within their community.

Anwar concluded: “At its most literal, Zakat means the donating of wealth to those in need.

"True wealth though, is more than just fiscal.

"It is kindness, mercy, and the sharing of a wealth of experience with others.

"What better way is there of showing that, than to give young people the tools to work and the wisdom of your experience?

"And of course, a career in catering brings a thorough knowledge of food, which one day may even help feed those who are hungry.”

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