For so many of my friends, peers and colleagues in talent, hospitality is who we are. It muscles its way in to your life and, in many ways, takes over. An intoxicating industry that demands and deserves our full attention.
The past 12 months have hit us hard. Psychologically, I mean. Who could ever have predicted a global event that would see one specific sector on the brink of disaster? Throw in Brexit and we have a perfect storm. The battle for talent is raging across all roles and all operators. Our fire-fighting throws money at the problem, yet deep down we know this isn’t the sustainable solution we need.
I know for a fact that it consumes so many minds across the industry. How can we fix our beautiful sector? How do we get people to see it as a career? How do we get people back? How do we attract the next generation? At risk of oversimplifying the problem, I propose a few key things that must happen over the next 12 months to save hospitality.
I mean actual change, not just lip service. “Our people are important” blah blah. “Guest first” is dated. “Bottom line first” even more so. Managers get it. They know what change needs to be made, yet so often the big fat budget hammer comes crashing down. We must stop it now. We have no choice but to review our payroll – the margins might be tight but in the absence of revenue, the point is moot. But it’s more than money or fair pay. The plaster of the “golden handshake” won’t keep your people engaged for long.
Owners and boards must wake up to the fact that their front liners’ priorities have changed. They don’t care about free drinks, staff discounts and Christmas do. Even career development isn’t at the top of the agenda, nor the big bucks. Of course, they expect fair pay but following covid, quality time with friends and family is right at the top of the list.
So, how do we offer that? A solid rota function that allows them to plan and allows them to have some weekends off (yup I said it). A 45-hour working week, maybe a gym membership, more holidays. Let’s face it, 28 days and a pension contribution are legal requirements. Stop calling them benefits for goodness sake. Look after your young people. I don’t pretend to know exactly what Generation Z wants from their hospitality job, but I certainly know that my best option is to ask them.
Steps towards better working conditions resolved – tick. So now it’s time to campaign right? Campaigning without the aforementioned internal changes really is futile, so I hope we can get our ducks in a row before we entice the masses. There are two groups to target.
ENGAGE WHAT YOU’VE GOT
First – our “lowest hanging fruit”. These are the ones we already have – hourly paid team members who don’t see their jobs as careers. It’s incredible how many of us fell into hospitality on the way to something “more suitable” in our parents’ eyes, before falling in love. That’s what we must bottle and shout about.
Who does this duty fall upon? I think it’s our managers. It was certainly a manager who engaged me in the sector. They highlighted my skills, showed me how I could carve out a career. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if managers were incentivised on bringing hourly guys up through the ranks, our talent pipeline would be significantly healthier.
REEL IN THE NEW
Second – the outside world. These campaigns must break moulds, showcasing different operators and niches (the sector doesn’t revolve around hotels – sorry hoteliers). On a par with the army and NHS attraction efforts of old, but cool. They need to be cool. We can’t land on stock images of servers in crisp white shirts carrying trays. Great drinks, great food and great music are non-negotiable when cooking up any sort of media campaign.
Who are we talking to? Schools, colleges, universities, parents? Anyone with the resilience, kindness and strength to join our special group should hear our message. The nerds, misfits, dropouts, clever kids, cool kids. The school leavers, the grads, the PHDs. Let’s go large. Have you heard the announcement from McCulloch and McDowall about their recruitment campaign? It’s going to be epic for sure and exactly what we’re talking about.
THE BREXIT ISSUE
Finally, and I’ll keep this one short and sweet because politics isn’t my bag. There must be a solution to European workers coming into UK hospitality. Visas? Permits? Low-cost sponsorships? It just has to happen, and fast.
Simple right? Just four tiny things and we get where we want to be. But seriously, jokes aside we have a mammoth task. And not only that, it requires everyone to get on board. We’re straight off the back of our greatest challenge yet, so will we get through? There’s not a doubt in my mind. Lesser sectors perhaps not, but ours? Of course. We are full to the brim with creative, resilient and generous humans who, by all accounts, are ready to step up to the plate.