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  • Martin Packard

Adapt & Conquer Covid19

It’s no secret, I hope, that everyone knows there is a workforce shortage in the hospitality sector. From cafes to Michelin starred restaurants, golf clubs to hospitals, everyone is struggling to reach a fully staffed team. I can only assume that the break from service that Covid19 caused forced a large number of people in the trade to rethink their life choices.

For these people, this has to be a good thing doesn’t it? But what does it mean for the people left behind? From a business perspective there are 3 choices.

The first option on the cards is to offer a reduced service. This could be fewer options on the menu or reduced operating hours. This is no mean fete as this solution could be permanent. No one knows how long the sector could be affected but we do know that government intervention in order to re-establish recruitment in any sector is often futile. So, this option has to be calculated and marketed correctly, possibly as far as a rebranding or certainly a reinvention of the business model. However if done correctly, it could lead to a more profitable, more sustainable business.

The second option is to become an ambassador for staff retention. Giving your team what they need is going to change as the risks of Covid19 subside but presently there is definitely the need for support with mental health. This can be as simple as including a “friendship at work” section to your pre shift briefing where someone mentions an act of kindness from a colleague. Also, recognition for a team member who “smashed it” on the last shift will also help with motivation. Recruitment in the hospitality trade is often seen as filling up a bucket with a hole in. As quickly as you hire a new member, another leaves. Looking after your team’s wellbeing is a way of plugging that hole. Of course, as well as you eventually being one of the few fully staff establishments firing on all cylinders there is also the added financial consideration that if we look after our people, other things like revenue and customer happiness ultimately look after themselves.


The third possibility is slightly selfless. You could become a training centre. Obviously, this takes a bit of work to set up and you need to right team to begin with to support the training but, in the UK, there are some great support networks and as long as you incentivise qualifying trainees to stick around on completion this could work out well for you. Not only will you be fully staffed, but the recruits have been trained your way, specifically for your business. Unfortunately, they won’t have the 360-degree knowledge of a well-travelled veteran but partnering up with other businesses to offer job swaps could achieve this to some degree.

To look at the bigger picture, this is really what the sector needs. Historically, a lot of people have gone into hospitality by default, because they weren’t good at school. In countries like Italy, France, Australia, it’s not a tertiary option. It’s taken very seriously. They have quality academies and apprenticeships. We need to change the way we recruit in this country. We need to expose kids to all the wonderful avenues that are possible, from working as a chef to becoming a sommelier, a baker, a barista. Because hospitality shouldn’t be a plan C. It’s an exciting place to work and a really viable career. It could be a great turning point for the sector but if its going to happen it needs to be industry led.


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