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Highs and Lows of the Summer Season

Martin Hesp talks to food producers about the challenges of working during the summer

Ice Cream

When asking our local food and drink industry to name the main challenges in preparing for a busy summer season, staffing problems came top of the list.

“This year, more than ever, the main issue will be staffing,” says Phil Harnett from The Meadfoot Bay, a boutique-style hotel in Torquay. “That said, we are currently in a good place with a full complement of staff that should see us through. However, expecting the unexpected seems to be the best motto, so no doubt we’ll be looking afresh at some point in the season.”

Amanda Stansfield from Granny Gothards adds: “Staffing is always an issue when summer arrives. As an ice cream business, it is obviously our busiest time and also the time when staff want, need, and are entitled to, time off – so it is a balancing act from April to September. Thankfully the amazing GG girls appreciate the problem that summer holidays can cause and are very helpful when it comes to booking time off.”

The region’s tourism industry faces a unique and extensive set of hurdles when it comes to staffing, which businesses in a more general area of commerce would not encounter. A manufacturer of ball bearings, for example, knows the requirements of a steady market and hires staff accordingly on a fairly static basis throughout the year. As tourism businesses tend to be seasonal, they often cannot offer year-long employment.

Added to that, the service aspect of the industry means many of the jobs are relatively low paid. As one respondent puts it: “You are asking people to work for long, very busy hours at the nicest time of the year when everyone else seems to be on holiday enjoying the sunshine. And to do it all on the minimum wage.”

But it’s not all about problems. People actually love working in the tourism sector for many reasons. The main one is that, for many, the act of helping other human beings to have an enjoyable time in this lovely part of the world is extremely rewarding. We asked these local experts what advice they would give visitors to get the most out of any time spent in Devon.

Helen Thomas, Owner of Shoreline restaurant and bar in Paignton, suggests: “Plan ahead, book restaurants, and decide which attractions you would like to visit.”

“You don’t have to go to the glorious beaches to enjoy Devon,” adds Jack Pickering, General Manager at Heron Farm vineyard, kitchen and shop in Honiton. “Find one of our gorgeous rivers instead and go for a walk. Sometimes, walking along the banks of the River Otter is like stepping into a Disney movie. You may be lucky enough to see an otter, heron, beaver, deer, or even the electric blue flash of a resident kingfisher. Once you’ve enjoyed your time outdoors, there are fantastic places to eat and drink.”

Ellen Tucker from Salcombe Dairy recommends getting off the beaten track. She says: “My favourite areas in Devon are not the tourist hotspots – ask the locals and you will find some hidden gems. We also have some of the best seafood in the country, so I would recommend eating as much as possible while in the area. A proper Devon ice cream is also the best dessert on the planet!”

“Always research first,” says Steve Richardson, Cellar Door Manager at Lyme Bay Winery. “Check local websites for producers and farm shops in the area to give you a feel of the sort of things available, depending on your particular interests. Then, draw up a rough itinerary of places you’d like to include while visiting.”

We wish our busy colleagues in the tourism sector a very happy summer with good weather.

This article is one of a series of written by Food Drink Devon.

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