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A For Effort

A For Effort

by Luke Butler

Dean And Nancy

Because of the job I now do and my former life working in the hospitality sector for 20 years, I constantly think about the challenges facing our industry and how we can make it a more attractive career path for talented individuals.

We know the sector has a reputational issue which affects its appeal to domestic talent, resulting in the reliance on overseas workers. The current talent shortage is clear evidence of that.

Last week I sat at ‘Dean & Nancy’ (a cocktail bar within the A by Adina Hotel in Sydney) enjoying a beer and catching up on my emails, and I couldn’t help but overhear the Bar Manager who was delivering exceptional service to a clearly impressed guest sitting at the bar.

​A moment later, I heard the same staff member speaking to a new employee, explaining what the venue is all about with a high level of detail. It was obviously day one for the trainee.

​It made me look up, and I as I looked around, it was clear that the staff combines both highly experienced and skilled members in jackets with new, ‘green’ employees dressed in waist coats. Old and new – some who know exactly what they are doing and others who are clearly still learning.

​The thing that struck me was how the manager was speaking to the ‘newbies’. It was nothing short of incredible. His passion for service and enthusiasm were so tangible and contagious, it’s easy to imagine the greenhorn falling in love with hospitality with such a mentor.

​Another ‘trainee’ (I assume) came into the area and his senior behind the bar asked him to get some full cream from back of house. The trainee looked confused, but a second explanation was provided without judgement, and he tentatively walked off, returning a minute later with the correct cream.

​The thanks he received after delivering this was incredible. It was as if he had just provided precious water to a dehydrated person. Some may think this over the top, but it was clearly authentic – an ordinary task was met with high praise for an unsure new employee.

​Now this is certainly not an advertisement for Dean & Nancy or that specific Bar Manager. I have no doubt that there are many similar interactions between the trainee staff in FOH and BOH at many other venues. This venue clearly has an exceptional mindset ingrained in its team around developing young talent and how to do so respectfully. It is abundantly clear that they understand the value and importance of fostering young talent.

​I have worked in many different environments where the newbie is treated as a helping hand who has still to earn their stripes before they are really respected. That is not the case in this venue.

​Every staff member FOH and BOH was smiling and appeared to really enjoy their work environment. In a climate where the entire world is crying out for hospitality staff, this team has completely nailed it, delivering a high level product while building their talent pool.

​If you appreciate how hard it is to achieve this outcome, you will understand where I am coming from.

To witness it honestly brought me great joy and some confidence in the future of the sector.

But this is surely nothing more than the way it should be. To solve the issue surrounding the future of hospitality staffing is actually not a massive challenge. My experience at Dean & Nancy clarified that. If every venue, every Bar Supervisor, Manager or Chef shows the same level of care for new entrants to the sector, as D&N does, I’d be out of job.

The sector would be teeming with enthusiastic, passionate employees wanting to get their foot in the door via great mentors and leaders. These employees would then evolve into future industry leaders – a class of talent we are sorely missing.

This is not meant to be a slight on any operator or the sector at large, as there are many out there who show the same level of care to their new staff. My point is that getting the entry experience for new staff right, is critical for the hospitality industry’s long-term talent supply.

If the sector can raise the median experience level for new employees, we will have a generation of talent that not only loves the sector, but also commits to it long term. Most hospitality ‘lifers’ will be able to name the people who inducted them and kept them in the sector. Let’s make that happen again.

Who is doing your inductions? Are they trained on how to do it? What is the process for onboarding a new staff member? Is there a set structure or is it haphazard?

The most important person in our industry right now is the one welcoming young talent to your business. The way they treat incoming talent, will have a significant impact on the business they work in and the sector as a whole.

(While this is not and advertisement for Dean & Nancy, it is pretty special.)