In August 2016, Nicola was appointed as the Chief People Officer of Bill’s Restaurants by the CEO, Mark Fox, who is leading the next phase of development of the Richard Caring backed hospitality business.
Previously, Nicola held the role of Group HR Director for Whistl and Unite Group plc. Prior to that she held senior HR and Operations roles with Pizza Hut, having started her career at Allied Domecq. How and when did you decide that HR was the career for you? I had been an operator within the hospitality sector for several years. I wanted to challenge myself again with a steep learning curve and find a path onto the board table. I decided on HR as Pizza Hut had an excellent HR Director at the time and I could see how a great HR function could benefit and really enable a business.
I embarked on a Masters in HR to academically challenge myself and gain the credibility of being professionally qualified. My first HR Director appointment was for a FTSE 250 company which gave me ownership of the function as well as exposure to a challenging professional and corporate environment. How have your first seven months been with Bill’s Restaurants? Joining Bill’s has been absolutely wonderful…like returning “home”, back to the world of hospitality where I can really bring my personality to the fore.
Although I have worked across a number of industries, hospitality is a real passion of mine. Bill’s is a much-loved brand by both our customers and employees, demonstrated by it’s meteoric growth rate in recent years. We’re now in the process of building the right structures and processes to support the enlarged business and prepare us for the next phase of growth.
Our CEO, Mark Fox understands that putting people at the heart of the business is key to success. This has enabled me to develop and implement processes, ensuring everything is in place to facilitate the growth of our current estate from 76 restaurants, to double that size within three to four years. Theresa May recently invoked Article 50, what impact is this going to have on your business and the wider hospitality industry? From a people perspective, as an organisation we have two very important things to consider, our current workforce and our future workforce. 1. Current workforce – In the UK hospitality industry as a whole, approximately 60% of the workforce are non-UK (that grows to circa 80% in London) so there are real concerns for a large portion of our team. They have questions around whether they will be able to stay, will their families be able to join then and is this a long-term career option. 2. Future workforce – Firstly, will they be able to work in the UK and if so, how difficult will that be? Furthermore, as the strength of sterling is no longer what it was, the idea of moving to the UK for work is less attractive. This may well lead to individuals deciding to pursue career opportunities in other countries. The hospitality industry already suffers from a labour shortage and there is still a stigma attached as to whether it is a “proper” career path in the UK. Other European nationals however, often feel differently, which is why they play such an integral part in the industry. Longer term, the hospitality industry has to address this problem and moreover take responsibility for educating young people coming out of school / college about the wonderful opportunities that exist. We are currently working hard to reassure our staff that they can build a career with Bill’s and we want to keep them.