Asia Pacific

Opinion: why hospitality training is an investment in your staff and business

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Francis Loughran, managing director, Future Food, says investing in hospitality training and staff wellbeing is crucial for the growth of any business

Another unusual year for the world. The pandemic, which is still not over, has forced us all to take a hard look at where we work, shop, live, socialise and spend our food, beverage and entertainment dollars. Many food and beverage businesses are still coming to terms on how best to restructure their business model. Small, medium and large food and beverage operators are still suffering from the fall-out of the pandemic, especially those in our capital cities’ CBD and regional towns that rely heavily on tourism.

However, for those businesses that have reopened; (some for the third and fourth time in Melbourne, Australia) they face the challenge of finding new or experienced staff in an economy that is void of overseas students, working visas and some peoples’ desire not to return to the food service sector, all in all leaving a shortage of trained hospitality staff. In addition, the hospitality sector is also competing with non-hospitality employers who are also vying for staff, adding to the shortage.

Invest for growth

For hospitality businesses to thrive and do what they do best – welcome customers and deliver positive and memorable experiences – they must train and invest in their staff. Investing in hospitality training and staff well-being is crucial for the growth of any food and beverage business.

All food and hospitality operators, such as cafés, espresso bars, restaurants and even night club owners are excited about their business reopening, but they are also realistic about the many challenges they face in this new world – all brought about as a result of the pandemic. Social distance, seating limitations, hygiene, contract tracing are now accompanied with everyday challenges – that are now more obvious than ever before – such as, rent and lease terms, delivery platform fees, competing for staff, customer expectations, profitable menus demanding minimum spends, food waste reduction, lack of tourists, new technology costs and social responsibility transparency when it comes to fair wages, terms and benefits for hospitality staff.

From New York to New Zealand, the issues are the same world over. The challenge goes well beyond the problem of staff shortages, when staff are eventually engaged, they still need to be trained regardless of their experience. Staff need to understand the fundamental principles of what makes a good hospitality worker – a person that has the confidence, capabilities and interpersonal skills to serve and deliver a positive experience.

It starts with basic floor and customer service training and moves through to mastering the in-house technology and hardware. Operators that adopt a ‘Team’ approach and partner with their staff will drive the service standard upwards, hopefully eliminating the need to ask for the bill three times before it eventually arrives.

First principles in hospitality training includes:

  1. Welcome – on the phone, screen or front door
  2. Customer care – always delivering a customer-centric service
  3. Product proficiency – know your product, know your services
  4. Confidence – ability to manage every customer-facing situation successfully
  5. Sequence of service – combining processes with technical skills to deliver
  6. Teamwork – knowing when to ask for help to deliver a better customer experience
  7. Thank you – two words – many positive memories for the customer

When it comes to hospitality training, I’ve trained people of all ages and backgrounds within food and beverage operations for over forty years, from Cape Town to Canberra, from Dubai to Dublin and so on. Regardless of where you are in the world, hospitality owners and operators face the same challenges, some of them we can influence and change, others we can’t.

Skilled migrants

These challenges include, apart from the obvious disruptive lockdown (I’ve deliberately avoided the ‘C’ word), revenue maximisation, many restaurants have reduced their trading days as a result of staff shortages. In Australia, like many other countries, experienced chefs and sommeliers are in short supply – this is due partly to current Government controls on skilled migration and international students, who are a crucial part of the food and beverage industry in Australia and New Zealand.

“The border closures have been tough in that respect. In the past I’ve bought wonderful talent into the country and built businesses around them,” says Justin Hemmes, head of Merivale Group.

Hemmes says that until skilled migrants and international students can be brought back into Australia safely, Merivale will struggle to open enough shifts to meet demand. Many of its restaurants are currently closed on Sunday.

Less and less Australian-born workers favour hospitality as a career choice. Industry leaders must work with Government to ensure that there is an adequate and qualified supply of hospitality trained staff to support the experience-economy in both cities and country towns.

As inner-cities around the world grow, we are led to believe that food, hospitality and entertainment will be the new powerhouse of our cities, regional towns and shopping malls. We must ensure our industry training provides a future workforce who are professionally trained and are employable across all sectors of hospitality.

In today’s experience-driven economy – happiness-hungry customers of all ages – seek pleasure and value genuine and meaningful customer service. Training staff to be professional is one obvious and financially rewarding way to create a real point of difference for any food and beverage venue of any size.

Francis Loughran FCSI is managing director of Future Food