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'It's a change that's going to happen right the way through the industry'

17 Jul 2023

'It's a change that's going to happen right the way through the industry'

Calum Montgomery, chef patron of Edinbane Lodge, discusses why training is the key to recruitment and retention.


Calum Montgomery is the chef patron of Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye, a remote island off the coast of scotland, often touted as one of the most beautiful on earth.

The restaurant with rooms has earned multiple accolades over the years, including 3 AA Rosettes, the Best Newcomer of the Year Award from the CIS in 2019, and mentions from both Harden's and Michelin.

However, when restaurants reopened in Scotland in the summer of 2021, Calum found it almost impossible to put together a whole team.

When he opened Edinbane Lodge, Calum had three goals. "I wanted to have a beautiful restaurant, I wanted to have a restaurant that people wanted to visit and I wanted to have a restaurant that people love to work at."

As far as he's concerned, all three have come true - including having a happy, well taken care of team.

"We're offering accommodation, a really good wage, we're offering good work-life balance,” as well as gym, climbing wall and rewards scheme memberships.

"I don't think we're doing anything wrong at all, I just want to keep moving with the times and keep pushing in the right direction of being an amazing place for people to come and work, somewhere people can be proud to work at and that will make them proud to work in hospitality."

This is by no means a short term fix; Calum sees the shift to a four-day work week for chefs as the future for his business and for hospitality industry as a whole.

"It's a change that's going to happen right the way through the industry, and I see it happening."

"Within two years, I don't think that chefs are going to be legally allowed to work five days a week. It's a change to stay. It's not the nineties anymore."

Calum was inspired by several other chefs in Scotland and across the UK - namely, Billy Boyter at The Cellar and Peter McKenna at The Gannet, both of whom he spoke to while he pondered whether or not to make the change.

Contrary to what one might think, deciding how to reorganise the business was straighforward enough.

From opening Wednesday through Sunday for dinner and Friday-Saturday-Sunday for lunch, as of this week, Edinbane Lodge will be open on Friday and Saturday for lunch and Wednesday through Saturday for dinner, with the view of growing the team and lifting the cap on covers in the future so as to feed 45 people per service, rather than the current 32.

"The more staff we can get, the more numbers we can do and the more consistent we can be and the higher level of service we can do."

There were never any doubts as to the goodwill and motivation of his crew, but having been short staffed in the he knows that should this continue, he risked burning them out and losing even the most dedicated members of staff that have stayed around throughout the pandemic.

"We've had to cap our numbers to continue delivering the high standards that we're happy with; we wouldn't want to push to that 40-45 number because people are coming in expecting an exceptional experience. We never want to go over our staffing levels because that's going to jeopardise the dining experience for everybody."

What's more, "we all hold ourselves to such high standards, we want to be treating our produce with such a high level of respect. It's not the kind of job that we can work in at a nine to five level anyway. We were working long hours before and reaching those high standards, so this will only be a move in the right direction."

When it comes down to it, the decision is about creating a sustainable business model: gone are the days of revolving door restaurants, when training staff felt like Groundhog Day.

"I'm a real believer in investing in people anyway," he said, "but if we're going to put the time and the effort into training people and showing people our vision, how we believe hospitality should be and how food should be served, the ingredients that we use."

By nurturing the view that work can be enjoyable, well paid, with more days off than a run of the mill nine to five, he said, "we don't want what we do to seem like just a job, we really want it to be a career."

"We want people to come to work, really enjoy their job and want to be here." "I know that that is the case for everybody who does work here. It's just getting them in the door."

Cooking in progress...