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Navigating the storm: the changing perceptions of a good employer

Former Institute of Hospitality CEO Peter Ducker has spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry and is a member of P&G Professional’s Expert Advisory Council.

I have never really understood the phrase ‘Perfect Storm’, not that I’ve ever thought about it too much, until the pandemic made us all take stock of things in ways that were not necessary in the era B.C. (before Covid).

I look at how hospitality is being battered from every direction and see nothing perfect about it at all.

We know that our clients – whether corporate or leisure, casual diners or blushing brides, have a massive pent up demand for our services, just as we all cannot wait to welcome them back. So far so good, but things just keep getting in the way.

Every Industry has supply chain challenges, we know. Never forget that hospitality was where ‘Just in Time’ processes were invented – manufacturing has adopted the process over the last few decades. Kitchens, relying on fresh produce so heavily, have relied on Just in Time delivery since forever.

In almost every instance our industry depends on our clients visiting premises to enjoy our service. But managing whether people can visit hospitality establishments is the key Government strategy in managing the spread of the virus.

The Covid and Brexit induced exodus of colleagues who returned home and not come back brings pressure and vacancies for which there is no easy fix. Many businesses have suffered massive financial hardship, too many have already gone to the wall.

In short, I see nothing ‘perfect’ about this storm we are all weathering.

Perhaps the greatest existential threat of all is around the staffing crisis. We can see that demand will return once restrictions are lifted and our guests feel able to visit us once more. We know that those leading our supply chains will find remedies to that problem. The long term issue will almost certainly be around staffing, and skills in particular. This challenge is not unique to hospitality – many other sectors are feeling the same pain.

Smart industry pace setters are already focusing on how to minimise the impact. Investing in training and upskilling means productivity will improve, leading the way to higher salaries. Many businesses are looking at their processes with a view to further streamlining – again the payback is in greater productivity.

The endgame is to make your business more attractive to be a part of than others who fish in the same labour pool.

We are at a disadvantage against some – our industry is busiest when others are not working and we are entertaining their staff. That’s not going to change, so what can we do? Many look to sectors of the community where working in evenings is a good solution, many are looking at up streaming processes like vegetable preparation and of course many multi-site businesses are investing in dark kitchens and central processing. These are all tried and tested strategies – and we still have the staff shortage problem. It’s time to think outside the box.

We have to present our industry as a career of choice, not as a last resort. This has been the mantra for decades, yet still we have a reputation that needs improving.

We need to find ways of saying that service is not servility. There is dignity in what we do, and pride also. A job where the measure of success is in the quality of the experience should surely be everyone’s dream. Whether it’s making a great cappuccino that brightens up a shopping trip and is memorable for an hour or creating a wedding reception that is a memory for a lifetime, putting a smile on someone’s face is satisfying. The great thing about hospitality is you share the gratification with your guests.

A challenge is that as hospitality has so many small and independent businesses, career progression is sometimes difficult. People have to move companies to advance themselves. A key way we as an industry can mitigate that inconvenience is by ensuring that training and development programmes are more transferrable. Not a small challenge, I know, but important nonetheless.

Most of all we must focus on becoming five star employers, removing the barriers to entry and taking every step to ensure that we are seen as welcoming, supportive, caring employers. One legacy from the pandemic is that cleanliness is a greater factor than ever before. I can see that this will be hardwired into our thinking for many years to come.

The subtext from the Government focusing on restricting access to hospitality is that our places are unsafe to visit, from which we can assume that they are unsafe to work in. Cleanliness and hygiene are priorities in our daily life as never before. It is undoubtedly in the interest of hotels and restaurants to provide a safe and clean environment for the security of both clients and staff.

P&G Professional has recognised this and stepped up to the plate for our Industry. P&G Professional products are not only effective but they are easy to use and require only simple training. Flash Professional Multi-Surface cleaner kills 99.99% of viruses and bacteria, allowing staff to clean and disinfect with one go, delivering outstanding results with confidence.*

What’s more, P&G Professional has launched the CleanPLUS Experience as a stamp of approval to reassure clients that your premises are safe. You can use the same scheme to reassure not just guests and customers but your staff and job applicants that you understand their concerns and have addressed them.

* Flash Disinfecting Multi-Surface cleaner: Kills Enveloped Viruses (EN14476 – 15sec, clean conditions); Kills H1N1 & SARS-CoV-2 (EN14476 – 5min); Kills Non-Enveloped Adenovirus (EN14476 – 15min); Kills Bacteria (EN1276 – 15sec, EN13697 – 1min, EN13704 – 15min), Kills Fungi (EN1650 – 15min).

About Sarah OBeirne

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