The hospitality industry, and life in general, can be a tricky space to negotiate, but Stephen Hickmore, who has worked in the industry for far too many years, is here to help. Got a question for Stephen? Send them to and we’ll seek the sage, unbiased advice of our Agony Uncle. Questions and answers to appear on Hospitality Marketplace, but we’ll keep it all anonymous. We promise.

Each day I get asked many questions. Maybe it’s the white hair and longevity that makes people believe that I can be trusted with their concerns and dilemmas. Over the years I think I have heard it all, but no, I am surprised with new questions often. Part of the reason why I love this job. So, ask away, we will keep it confidential. Here are a few examples of questions I’ve been asked:

Dear Stephen,

I have applied for a new position and would really like the job. At interview, when I was asked about my current salary was I lied and “inflated” it by R3,000 per month. They have now asked me for a salary slip. Do they have the right to ask for confirmation of my current salary?

Inflated Salary

In my experience new employers nearly always ask for the latest salary slip. This is largely to ensure that, when the job offer is made, the new cost to company reflects accurately and that you are aware of what net salary and benefits you will be receiving. Often during the final interview there are discussions on salary expectations for the position; hopefully the new employer will balance up present salary and expectation with a reasonable rate for the job and come up with an acceptable offer. It is never a good idea to mislead about current salary, honesty is always best.


Dear Stephen,

I am a talented and award-winning chef and am so tired of being told what to put on my menus by inexperienced managers who have no concept of fine dining. As far as I am concerned, the customers should get what I create, and management must respect my decisions.

– It’s my menu!

Chef, I hate to break this to you but the world does not revolve around you! Management and owners of businesses have to consider costs, trends, feedback from customers and the difficult balance of pleasing the guest and making money. Try to see the big picture and welcome feedback from guests and management. Remember you are cooking food and not saving lives. Get over yourself.


Dear Stephen,

I started work at a small catering company recently and when pay day came there was no money in my account. The owners told me that they will pay me in a week. It is now two weeks later and still no payment. What should I do? I cannot pay my bills.

– What happens if I never get paid?

This happens sometimes with small businesses, they run into cash flow difficulties and money is tight. They should be paying salaries before any other expense. You have to level with them and let them know that you cannot work if you are not paid. Give them a deadline in writing and ask them to sign the commitment. If you are not paid by the agreed deadline, I would suggest you stop work until your salary is paid. Once your money is in the bank, consider if you can trust the owners to pay you on time every time.

  • Stephen Hickmore
    Stephen Hickmore

    Stephen is a headhunter for the hospitality industry, and Co-founder of The Hospitality Solutions Company H.S.C. as well as Hickmore Recruitment. Stephen has a world of experience in hotels. He trained with Trusthouse Forte Hotels in the UK before moving to South Africa in the 80’s. After a 3 year period with Southern Sun Hotels, Stephen became a recruiter for the hospitality industry. Stephen presents and MC’s at many events and competitions. He has an insider view of the crazy world of hotels, and writes about anything from mad chefs to giving up the booze. His observations are at times educational, and at other times oblique.

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