Australia’s hospitality industry has had a tumultuous two years, and while there is hope in the form of recently opened borders, the return of office workers, and a reemergence of local events, 2022 has yet to present a winning answer to one of the biggest challenges the industry is facing: staff shortages.
Across the country workers have re-evaluated their relationships with work, causing business owners to restructure their internal operations where possible. In many cases, sadly, venues haven’t been able to combat the effects of the staffing crisis, and find themselves forced to close.
This is leading to a highly competitive hiring market, which I’m sure any business owner reading this can attest to. So, what exactly can employers in the hospitality industry do?
Firstly, look after your existing staff
Focus on retaining and protecting your existing staff. Listen to them and hear their needs. Often when staff leave it’s because a need isn’t being addressed, whether that’s needing their shifts to work with their home lives, needing to feel support from their manager with difficult customers, or their wages needing to be liveable.
Right now, one of the biggest needs that a lot of people are overlooking is the need to feel safe. Continue to have your staff wear masks when it makes sense, keep up signage that reminds customers to be COVID-safe, and support them if they’re feeling any cold or flu symptoms.
Treat each staff member with the same respect that you would have for friends and family, so that they don’t want to leave or work anywhere else.
The hospitality industry has continuously had to adapt in order to survive the past two years, and while this has been an extremely tough time, it’s important to acknowledge the positive impacts that these changes have made. For example, the increase in takeaway and delivery offerings has been a huge positive for both hospitality venues and customers.
While some changes have slid into the permanent operations for many businesses now, it’s important to keep sight of some of the short-term changes that can help support you and your team during staff shortages. Say you find yourself short-staffed for a dinner service, for example, being able to revert to a takeaway and delivery only service or a limited menu for the evening will help reduce the strain on staff and simultaneously keep revenue coming through the door.
Technology is your friend, not foe
One of the biggest positives to come out of the last two years for the hospitality industry is the advancements in technology to improve things like operational efficiencies and the customer experience. While technology is not a replacement for staff, it can help save time and resourcing, and actually enable them to focus on the parts of their role that are the most enjoyable, and true ‘value-add’ for customers.
Camp Grounds cafe in Tamworth, New South Wales, is one small business I have seen that has reaped the benefits of cloud-based technology. The iconic regional cafe once spent hours each day checking off inventory or manually placing orders with different suppliers but through introducing a cloud-based commerce solution, the business has been able to speed this process up and improve revenue.
Digital ordering has also taken off, offering a multitude of benefits. First and foremost, it minimises physical contact between staff and customers which reduces the risk of getting sick. By the same token, it can also help to have digital ordering in place when you do have staff shortages as customers can place orders through their smartphone at the table. This takes the pressure off those team members who are working, leaving them to focus on fulfilling the order and giving the customer a great overall experience.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, businesses can implement these suggestions to help drive staff retention and attract new employees. Make them advocates for your business and bring them on the journey as you make plans to revitalise your business and ultimately revive Australia’s hospitality industry. After all, we are all in this together.