The hospitality industry, and life in general, can be a tricky space to navigate, 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 received:

Dear Stephen,

I am a young chef still living at home. I work in a busy restaurant working many hours and the money is quite poor. My mother is incensed by how hard I work for little return money wise. I keep telling her that I love my job and am building my career, but she insists that she be allowed to set up a meeting with my boss. She is a very persistent person. What should I do?

– These Apron Strings are Too Tight!

I understand that it is difficult to be independent from your parents when first starting out in a career. It’s good that you love what you do, and it sounds to me like you are prepared to make some sacrifices to establish your career. I get too many calls from parents who mean well, but essentially are interfering in their offspring’s career. I tell them in the nicest possible way to “butt out” and let their adult son or daughter deal with their own career problems. It is fine for a parent to advise you, but a definite no-no for them to contact your boss. Tell your Mom to let you handle your own career. Be nice, but very firm.


Dear Stephen,

I resigned my job to go into rehab. I needed to sort out an alcohol problem that was ruining my life and affecting my work. I have now been sober for 6 months and am ready to look for a job. How do I explain the gap in my career to a new employer? It is often a prejudiced issue and a very private matter.

– Gap in my CV

Well done in confronting your demons and for having the guts to make a positive change. This is a hard one to advise on but not an uncommon question in the hospitality industry. I find that most employers are receptive to the truth; it shows high values and integrity. I would tell the interviewer, starting with the line “I want to tell you something sensitive about myself and want to assure you that this will no longer affect my work.” Don’t make it the central theme of your conversation and don’t over-hype it. You say that the problem was affecting your work? It may also be good to let your previous employer know about your progress at rehab and ask if they would be prepared to give you a reference. Good luck.


Dear Stephen,

I have not been happy in my job and have been looking for a better environment and better promotional prospects, this job is a dead end. I have been offered an excellent opportunity and resigned but my present employer has offered me more money to stay. What should I do?

– More Money, Same Problems?

Easy answer: DO NOT STAY! You say that you are unhappy in your job and looking for potential of promotion? The lure of more money is not going to change your reasons for looking for a new opportunity in the first place. If you accept the counter offer I’d bet that you’ll  be looking for a new job again within 6 months. Make the change now!

  • 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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