As part of a series of interviews with tourism and hospitality businesses in Coastal West Sussex, we spoke to MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt, who runs Pitch restaurant and Bayside Social in Worthing, about what is needed to help the industry thrive in 2022.

Tell us about Bayside Social. How long have you been up and running and what’s on offer? What makes you different?

We opened in September last year and we have an amazing spot on Worthing seafront. Bayside Social is a breakfast, brunch and lunch spot. The restaurant opens right onto the beach and we have a small plate offering, in a sharing style – that’s what the ‘Social’ side of our name is about.

People are quite excited to be out and sharing again. There’s actually not a great deal of small plate places around. We take influence from around the world but use a lot of UK products and suppliers. It’s gone down really well.

The pandemic hit hospitality and tourism industries particularly badly. How did you manage the crisis and how was it coming out of lockdown?

There were various challenges. In the construction stage we had delays as equipment and supplies were getting stuck in ports. But since opening we’ve been getting into a nice rhythm and customers have been finding out about us organically.

My priority is to get through the winter months to the busier, brighter days. Another lockdown would have crucified us and many others. People have got the choice now to come out and we will do everything in our power to follow guidelines and keep people safe.

Thinking aside from the pandemic – what is needed for the tourism and hospitality industries to thrive in coastal West Sussex, in 2022 and beyond? What needs to happen to help the sector grow?

I think there just needs to be investment from local authorities and recognition that tourism brings jobs and a vibrancy. With my other Worthing restaurant, Pitch – that whole area is becoming a foodie hub, and we should really be highlighting that.

Hospitality has been massively impacted by rising prices – if the cost of a dish has gone up by £1, no-one is really getting any richer. I think we need to highlight what sits behind hospitality, which is that love and passion for providing great food and service.

Chef Kenny Tutt

We’re all still playing catch-up, so we need real patience from local authorities. Everyone wants to pay their bills, but everything has gone up in price – from meat to sugar – and fresh produce is the highest I’ve ever seen it. I’m not willing to compromise on quality, so we have to pay these higher prices.

What specific support would you like to see from local authorities/government?

Keeping business rates at bay would be the best way to support hospitality businesses – although I recognise local authorities need to balance their books too.

Thinking about skills, how can hospitality businesses become more attractive for prospective staff?

I think businesses really need to be showing off what’s great about working in hospitality. We offer competitive salaries, pensions, days out for teambuilding and have good HR and support channels.

We have to shake off this image that people are treated badly in this industry.

I have staff who started right at the beginning when we first opened Pitch who are still here. We have a mix of staff, including people with families and mortgages. We’ve had a great sense of camaraderie throughout Covid.

What are your aims for 2022? What are your predictions?

I’m really optimistic about 2022. It feels like we’re coming out of quite a dark time and people will be going out and celebrating big events like they used to. I think food trucks and outdoor vendors will remain popular. There’s a lot of optimism – almost like VE Day and that sense of: “Have we made it?”

What can visitors enjoy in Coastal West Sussex? What makes the region exciting/different for tourists and day-trippers on staycations?

Coastal West Sussex has that lovely mix – there’s the bucket and spade and the arcades side – everything I used to love as a kid – but also now that more cosmopolitan side, with wine bars and a range of interesting restaurants.

You’ve got the great sea views, beaches and walks on the South Downs – and good transport links. There’s still work to do and investment needed, but there’s no reason why coastal West Sussex can’t keep growing too.

We have some great suppliers here for dairy, meat and fish – as well as English wines with loads of Sussex vineyards.

How can the tourism/hospitality industries become more sustainable, and what support is needed for businesses on this?

When you think about packaging and produce – the sustainable options are almost double in price. So, if councils are serious about helping businesses, what subsidies could be in put in place to help?

Goals need to be achievable. It would be really helpful to have guidance on what the top three priorities should be for hospitality businesses, for example. Should we be focusing on one area at a time and really nailing that first? I could be trying my best to ensure one part of the business is truly sustainable, but if all my vegetables turn up in a diesel lorry, is that undoing my work?

I think there needs to be a clearer definition of “sustainability” too – what does it mean for customers and for businesses? I think sometimes the word is used and people don’t really know what it means in practice.