As part of its award-winning internal progression strategy, Casual Dining Group (CDG), has launched a new Leadership Academy Plus to help team members to progress to management level and junior managers to progress to the next step in their career.

With the support of Remit Group, the new Leadership Academy Plus will have apprenticeships at its core and these have been mapped into the existing internal training material.

Claire Clarke, Group HR Director at Casual Dining Group, explains why they chose this integrated approach.

“The most important element for our continued growth is our amazing teams. We are always focused on attracting, developing, retaining and motivating the best talent in the industry.”

“Within the Leadership Academy Plus, the apprenticeship itself ensures that everyone has all essential tools to excel in their current roles, whilst the internal leadership programmes provide the continued stretch and challenge we need to create a very effective formula for progression.”

“The training is structured, well-paced and includes all skills, knowledge and behaviours necessary for team members to make the step up to management, including a range of tailored, Casual Dining Group training modules. The result is that our managers have greater confidence and their teams are generally happier as the leadership they experience is both effective and positive.”

Casual Dining Group is one of the largest independent restaurant companies in the UK and employs almost 8000 people nationwide. It operates some of the most recognisable restaurant brands in the eating-out market, such as Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas.

In partnership with Remit Group, Casual Dining Group created an apprenticeship programme in 2016 in preparation for the launch of the apprenticeship levy. Nearly four years on, this approach continues to pay dividends for both the business and its employees.

As Claire explains, “We believe that the apprenticeship route offers a fantastic learning formula and a great alternative to costly University degrees. All of our apprenticeship programmes provide an intense learning experience that is rooted in a real working environment.”

Remit Group ensures that Casual Dining Group team members are offered a clear, structured, blended learning approach with a combination of workshops, online self-study, work activities, projects and 121 coaching from Remit Development Coaches. A combination, that in conjunction with an award-winning internal training policy is working very well.

“We have so many success stories within our teams from those that have been on an apprenticeship.

“In Casual Dining Group, we now offer programmes from entry level right up to Operations Manager and even Director level through our BA (Hons) Business Manager Practice Degree apprenticeship and Operations/Departmental Manager Level 5 apprenticeship.  As well as our restaurant team-members, we also offer a wide range of apprenticeships for our support functions that include HR, L&D, Project Management, Marketing and Finance. It means we can help our talented team members to progress to management and beyond in whatever role they choose.”

Apprenticeships will play a critical role in the long-term future of the UK’s economy. With a growing labour force gap predicted after Brexit, investment in apprenticeships can bridge this resource gap. The Casual Dining Group apprenticeship programme is keeping the organisation at the forefront of the industry securing its future talent, productivity and growth.

In a competitive sector, Claire explains the impact of apprenticeships on the key challenges of recruitment, retention and progression of Casual Dining Group team members.

“Apprenticeships have a positive impact on our recruitment. Learning while earning a salary is seen as an extra benefit for many candidates, alongside the increased career progression opportunities they provide. We also see ripple effect, and when they are in role, apprentices have such a passion for improvement that both their engagement and motivation have a positive impact on the overall culture and attitude in our restaurants”, says Claire.


“We also see a positive impact on our 90-day and long-term staff retention, which can lead to increased profits due to the implementation of better and more effective practices. Apprenticeships are a great support to a General Manager in training their teams. They offer a real return on investment”, she adds.

This is an important time for employers to understand how to use the apprenticeship levy. Employers in the Hospitality sector such as Casual Dining Group are demonstrating a real commitment to apprenticeships. Their progressive recruitment and training policy helps both their business and team members reap the benefits work-based training can offer.

Casual Dining Group operates around 280 restaurant sites, in a variety of locations including leisure parks, shopping centres, airports and high streets and serves more than 20 million meals each year.

“We know that taking part in a scheme like ours will boost our teams’ confidence, support their career aspirations and make them far more likely to succeed. It is also hugely rewarding and loads of fun.

“If someone is passionate about being the best and wants to take a positive step towards the next phase in their future career, then Casual Dining Group thrilled to be able to offer them that opportunity.