Hostology’s Emma Hardcastle in Conversation with Dewsall Court and Iscoyd Park

15 Sep 2021

After a busy wedding season, Hostology’s Emma Hardcastle caught up with Samantha Vaughan from Dewsall Court and Phil Godsal from Iscoyd Park to discuss the challenges they are currently facing and if they had any advice for other venues. 

Emma Hardcastle: Firstly, congratulations to you both on such a successful wedding season. Although we know it’s not been the easiest to manage, what would you say has been the number one challenge for your business right now? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): I would definitely say that Staffing is the main challenge right now, particularly waiting, bar, housekeeping.  We have been lucky with our chefs but I know many places are struggling with finding decent ones and our managers have largely remained the same.

Sam (Dewsall Court): The number one challenge for the business is recruitment. People are not turning up to their interviews. The wage expectation has skyrocketed.

Emma Hardcastle: And why do you think that is? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): There are less people applying for the jobs generally, those who do apply tend to be very young so they require much more training, looking after general managing and time. This at a time when we have many more weddings so need greater staff than previously. Hospitality has opened up all at once and everyone needs staff at the same time so the hospitality sector is competing against itself for staff. Brexit has had a big impact and hospitality is seen by many as a risky bet for a career so potential applicants may be looking at other sectors instead.  We have also suffered with staff being off with COVID or being pinged and having to miss days of work.

The younger staff helped us get through the summer but have now returned to school.  This all puts more stress and demands on an already overstretched team, everyone having to work very long hours and all levels in the team are having to help out and work in whatever area is needed – this includes the owners, senior events team, even the chefs…

Sam (Dewsall Court): You have two pools of people, one pool of people that aren’t keen to go back into the workplace at all so the demand for the job is down but those who are willing to go back into the workplace are expecting a lot more from their wage.

Emma Hardcastle: Is there anything you are focussing on to try and encourage people to come and work for you in the Hospitality sector? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): Staff retention has never been so important, we have some very nice treats lined up for them, we have started having weekly lunches together as a team, brainstorming sessions that involve everyone – it is really important to make the team feel they have real creative input into the venue.  It is vital to make it a really enjoyable place to work and that the hard work is rewarded and they feel appreciated.  We are planning on talking at the local universities and schools where people are studying hospitality and encouraging them to come and work to gain experience.

Strangely this has been quite good for morale  – contrary to what I was expecting it has brought most people together as a team- quite good for the team to see everyone getting stuck in – good for owners to be getting their hands dirty and working alongside the team too.

Sam (Dewsall Court):  Also, you have to think about other attractions around the job and wage, for example, other benefits, we do staff meals, staff events, perks with other business that they can get discounts, restaurant visits, bespoke gifts – just to keep everyone happy and feeling appreciated.

Emma Hardcastle: Has there been any benefits from operating with a smaller team? 

Phil (Iscoyd Park): The business has undergone a reset and getting stuck in it has helped us all see areas we can improve and change.  It has also meant that we have learnt to cope with fewer staff, adapted our systems and have had to become more organised.  Hostology has been very helpful as it reduces the amount of admin and different staff members repeating the same tasks.  Because we have all had less office time it has meant that we have been able to communicate with couples in a more efficient way.  It has also meant that couples have taken on more of the admin themselves so even when we are out of the office doing weddings we can keep pushing the organisation of future weddings forward yet at the same time it feels like the communication is better between clients and venue because of Hostology.  The messaging system has saved time on emails etc.

Emma Hardcastle: That’s great news. What would you say the main benefits of Hostology have been during this busy period? 

 Phil (Iscoyd Park): The communication between the events team and the kitchen has greatly improved and there are more checks in place which means fewer mistakes occur even in the busiest times.

 It is a great comfort to me and the senior management team to know that all the information about each wedding is in one place and very clear and easy to read. This is very helpful when bringing on a new member of staff.  Previously it took a long time for a new starter to get up to speed, now thanks to Hostology this can be done very quickly.

Hostology has helped us keep the standards and attention to detail up even though we are under more pressure of time than ever before.  Future Weddings are happy because they can see their weddings come together through their side of Hostology which helps when the time for communication with them is less available than before.

 When staff are suddenly off sick with no warning, another member of staff can immediately see all the notes and details of the wedding and take over and continue the running of the day.

Emma Hardcastle: Are there any other challenges, you have faced this summer?

Phil (Iscoyd Park): Other challenges include finding the time to show new potential coupes around, giving the confidence to book without adequate insurance cover, keeping up with maintenance when the house is being hammered so hard.

What advice would you give to other venues facing the same issues?

Sam (Dewsall Court): We have lots of relations and friends of the current team members that want to work at Dewsall, we have also changed the wage structure and encouraged people to go to friends and family to get them to work for us. We are going to start rewarding loyalty – for example, all the events staff who are going to uni, if they come back in the summers etc they will get a cash reward, nothing major but something to honour and reward loyalty. Then we don’t have to retrain.

Phil (Iscoyd Park): We found that we could successfully continue to run weddings and keep the standard levels up even with staff shortages. We have become more efficient and better organised out of necessity – this will save us money and time in the longer term.  Get Hostology – it is great and really helps with organisation and communication, it saves a lot of time and ultimately money.

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