Monday, 13 April 2009

Hospitality staffing

An interesting article in this weekend’s Weekend Australian may well prove what many of us have suspected for ages – that hospitality standards have indeed slipped generally. I instinctively discard any similar thoughts of my own, putting them down to the aging process bringing out that usual reaction of “In the good old days….” It was interesting to read others opinions confirming the “good old days” theory!

The Weekend Australian headline reads:

‘Smorgasbord of restaurant talent returns’ and basically the article features the new (Neil Perry’s) Rockpool restaurant manager, 35 year old Jeremy Courmadias, who has returned to Australia with superb hospitality skills having worked in London for the last seven years in ‘the worlds most sophisticated and buoyant restaurant markets’.

‘For an industry that has grown used to a diet of extremely lean personnel pickings over the past five years, the relatively sudden availability of people such as Courmadias, other returning ex-pats and locals who have lost their jobs in a contracting restaurant industry, is the upside of the down. Quieter economic times have provided relief from a chronic problem for restaurant employers: skilled staff shortages.

From the kitchen to the dining room floor, finding experienced staff has been a nagging headache for employers for years, according to industry bodies such as Restaurant & Catering Australia…..

The corollary has been over-promoted chefs and wet-behind-the-ears waiters filling a void out of necessity rather than experience or talent.

But since the world financial markets went into decline last year with the domino effect felt in restaurants around the world, it’s all turned round.’

Neil Perry says ‘The level of quality in applicants has improved dramatically’ which should lead to ‘better food and service for a nation whose easygoing nature has allowed us to gloss over declining standards in both.’

‘Everybody knows that in kitchens especially, too many were promoted too early as a result of all this’ agrees chef Justin North of Becasse restaurant in Sydney. ‘You’d have fourth year apprentices becoming sous (second in command) chefs and sous chefs becoming head chefs way too early.

The middle ranked chefs, the heart and soul of the kitchen, were just really difficult to find. Now they’re queuing up.’

Courmadias says ‘The restaurant industry here was riding high for a long time and nobody bothered to train anyone, which is why there was such a shortage’.

Traditionally, even though it’s the same industry around the country, our local hospitality industry has its own advantages and disadvantages, good things and bad things, about it, but this article certainly sounds familiar. I’d be interested in your thoughts about it.


Maggie said...

Living in Melbourne, there were a lot of experienced waiters about. Living in Hobart... well those experienced waiters just move to Melbourne or Sydney, where the tips are better and there are more places to work!

Rita said...

Maggie, it may well link back with your post of yesterday about the number of teenagers whose attention you can't attract in cafes.
I'm convinced that till people work in hospitality because they perceive it as a career of choice, rather than it being todays option to tide them through till tomorrow, we're always going to be on the receiving end of mediocre or sub-standard service or food.

Maggie said...

I agree. Cheffing has a higher social acceptance than waiting. Think of Italy, where it is an honor to be a waiter or barista. Australia can often have a negative opinion of the service industry. We all want out coffee/ lunch whatever and we want it NOW, but no one wants to be the one who has to make it.

steve said...

Rita for years we have been promoting under qualified staff in the hospo industry. It has more to do with cutting costs that some sort of skills vacuum.
The irony that this article highlights is that highly skilled people are now being paid below what they are worth because of the GFC and somehow this is beneficial? WTF! Who to, not the customer thats for sure.
Try telling me that someone is gonna feel good about doing a job that they were previously paid a lot more for.

The simple fact is that we do not vaulue service industry people in this country.

Its only beneficial because people are being paid way below what their training & experience might have affored them overseas.

Having said all this I guess its a case of supply & demand. If you belive the Weekend australian, we are overrrun with fleeing highly skilled expats eager to flesh out the middle ranks of kitchens & FOH.
Hmm, try telling that to the countless rural businesses throughout Australia trying to attract pedigreed staff.

sir grumpy said...

I can't remember when things were any different. Restaurants and cafes have ALWAYS had trouble finding decent staff, sometimes ANY staff.
It has always been ``no wait staff'', ``young good 'uns pissing off interstate or overseas'' etc, etc.
I think we'll just have to accept it as a way of life. That's not to say individual business shouldn't fight to get good staff.
But you have to pay them more than bog standard or guess what? They aften don't care and who could blame them.
Steve even goes on about penalties by saying along the lines of, yes it's the hospitality industry, so you work during the time others are relaxing...which means not 9-5 Mon-Fri.
But I think that is harsh and is used as an argument by some to say, look accept the hours and don't expect any more for them
Do we say to a miner: yes, it's mining, but you can't expect a premium for the danger. No we don't, as has been witnessed by the recent rush to WA and Queensland for the big wages in mining and resources.
By the way, talking of resources, Steve is a wasted resource on WARM.
Basically, I couldn't see the point of his spot on Friday.
A bloke serves three dishes to three women. Steve tried to get the message across about local produce and cheaper cuts, but it just stopped there.
Me and the missus were waiting for him to take us into the kitchen and go through the dishes. But nothing. What a shame and what a waste.
What is that all about?

steve said...

Hi Sir G-Yes I have used the argument that hospitality workers should reconcile that their main hours of work are when others are off-But I'm sure I haven't said that they shouldn't expect better pay espacially if they are good at what they do.
The bigger issue & I'm afraid its not going to go down well, is that if penalty rates are imposed many cafes & restaurants will start charging a surcharge to help meet it.
What all restaurateurs fear is that the public wont cop the price rise.

sir grumpy said...

No, I remember you didn't link the two things, Steve, but realise many others might.
I think we do get a great deal on eating out here compared with, say Britain or parts of Europe (especially Scandinavia).
The US is generally cheaper than here but the way staff are paid is often a disgrace.
We (customers) need to pay a bit more so the industry can look after staff and get a decent profit.
But I fear my opinion on this as a mere eatist is in the teeniest minority.

steve said...

PS Sir G, you made some good points about that warm tv spot.
The producers encourage feedback & it might be good to make this point via their website & go to warm tv

Ran said...

Hi Rita,

I am heading to launceston for a long weekend next weekend and i was wondering if you had any foodie reccomendations? i am thinking of maybe staying in rosevears and will have a hire car so can get to far out places. we have been to hobart before but not the launceston area.


Rita said...

Hi Ran, and welcome. I love your blog. Would you like to contact me via email and I'll be more than happy to give you an honest rundown? I'm sorry not to responded straight away, but as you will see from latest post, have been in Melb this week, and only got back last night.