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Why F&B businesses fail to attract trained staff

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Hotels and standalone restaurants, which saw recession in recent times, are now creating‚ ‘world cuisine’, technology-driven models and innovative service for a new approach. Here is an analysis on how these developments are going to help the chef community and segment collectively…

The hospitality industry is fiercely competitive where customers are becoming more and more demanding. In order to satisfy the growing demands of customers, everyday new ‘concept restaurants’ are opening up. Hotels and standalone restaurants, which saw recession in the recent times, are now creating menus touted as ‘world cuisine’ in order to attract business. In the process, they are creating culinary employment. This is a good news for , but where are they?

Peter Knipp, CEO of Peter Knipps Holdings, which organises World Gourmet Summit, once said: “I once saw this high-end restaurant turning away customers, even though the restaurant was half empty, because they did not have enough staff. It’s a big problem.”

We have often witnessed a similar scenario, which could be due to the following reasons–poor service or food not up to the mark or delayed service. Why is this happening? Let’s try to analyse the reasons.

Changing challenges: The past few years have seen a culinary revolution in the country due to varied reasons. Be it overseas travel or easy access to information on the Internet or programmes on electronic channels devoted to food, all have forced upon fast changes on the culinary platter, which become a challenge

Outdated education: The culinary education in the country is outdated. Institutes are still teaching what was taught 30 years ago and the methodology remains the same. Very few institutes are using modern teaching resources. And, the faculty is often seen complaining of financial restrains in procurement of raw material, keeping up with today’s requirement, to pass on the practical wisdom.

The focus of the courses is not clear. For instance, even if someone wants to become a chef, he/she have to study subjects like accounts, engineering, etc. Internships in the industry are not educational, but made to do menial jobs.

The equipment needs to be updated every four years to what’s in the market and what the industry is using. The faculty has to have more industry experience. I feel that having guest lecturers from the industry, as a regular part of the curriculum, will serve better to prepare students as future professionals.

Less for more: In comparison to the amount of hard work poured in hospitality, the wages are poor, and hence, less takers of hospitality jobs. I have met number of chefs who are ready to take up teaching assignments, but back out because the payments are not at par with the industry.

Why does this difference exist? When the hotels are making money why we go on cost cutting mode on chefs or rest of the staff. Students of lots of catering colleges after completing their internship with the industry do not want to join the industry. Instead, they join call centres, customer relations, PR companies, etc., as they offer better pay scales along with a better working environment.

Growing restaurants: There is an increase in the number of restaurants opening. It is still one of the easiest kind of businesses to start up, but difficult to sustain. Today the scenario is if you have deep pockets open a restaurant where you sell in cash and buy on credit. The popular perception is one can make quick money. The reality is very different.

Lack of trained manpower: One of the reasons we do not have many culinary academies is lack of trained manpower. The ones we have are private and very expensive. The majority of students cannot afford them and even the awareness level about these courses is low.

In the city of Dehradum, for example, there are institutes running whose kitchen are not even equipped with facilities comparable to what we have these days at homes. The students are children of villagers who want to have a stable career and a decent source of income, and are lured in for a promising future. Such is the state of hospitality education in small towns and cities.

Long and tiring working hours: Agreed, our jobs are demanding, but there are several ways to cut down the long working hours. A chef is not a jack of all trades, but he is expected to be one. He should be left in the kitchen only. We need to delegate, trust and create SOPs to overcome this problem. Today, lot of standalone restaurants expect chefs to market them as well.

Lack of time-bound promotions/incentives: This is something which needs to be looked at seriously, as this affects productivity and morale of employees. Incentives and promotions are specifically designed to increase employee morale to result in profitability and customer satisfaction, which seldom gets addressed, especially at the entry level of an organisation.

Giving Chefs Their Space

A majority of restaurants are under-staffed. With high operating costs. The owners expect chefs to multi-task and cut costs. This leads to dissatisfaction and high staff turnover. At the end of the day, it is the taste, quality, price and presentation of food that make the business grow. So owners need to understand this and leave the chefs to concentrate on food innovations only.

Also, trained chefs will obviously come at a higher cost with demand and supply factor coming into play. In life, we are prepared to pay a higher price for a TV made by company X as compared to that manufactured by Y.

Similarly, entrepreneurs need to understand that a good chef with his skills be an asset to the business. In today’s competitive scenario, new job opportunities in F&B outlets are turning out to be a risky proposition. If a new start-up does not work, it directly impacts the owner and employees.

One major reason for financially non-viable projects is costs without thoughts. Too much of money is spent on interiors, concepts, and to emerge as a different entity from others. In the process, the focus on the aspect of ‘food & beverage’, which is the primary reason for its existence, gets lost. If a customer does not find an outlet up to the mark the restaurant is doomed. There are so many examples where eateries have flourished despite being modest in terms of ambience, but known for offering excellent food.

On the other hand, unqualified staff can ruin a business. Your employees can contribute to the success of your company when they are trained to perform their jobs according to industry standards. Employees are interested in performing their jobs well to advance the restaurant, feel a sense of pride for the job well done and advance to higher positions.

Untrained employees do not understand how to do their jobs and none of these goals are achieved. Unskilled staff means low productivity, revenue loss, unhappy customers and increased expenses.

The Future

Considering the fact that chefs find it hard in the present-day scenario in eateries, more and more chef-owned restaurants will open in future. They will be in a position to command premium position and industry will spend more on training and better packages.

That said, the advent of affordable dining will set in; from cafes to pubs and from hawkers stalls to high-end restaurants. One also needs to consider the technology advancements taking place in the hospitality sector. The use of computers is now also seeing taking over jobs that were traditionally done by people.

This brings us to question of the value human interaction will have in food & beverage industry in future. We have tabs replacing the menu cards for customers to place their order directly. Also, studies have shown that in the West there is a 30 per cent increase in the revenue to those outlets which have iPads.

In future, big restaurant chains are going to use drones for home delivery. A restaurant in China is said to be running on robots for cooking and service; staff actually sit inside a computer room to operate robots. Another restaurant in Thailand employs robot wait staff and entertains waiting customers. Robotic arms developed by NASA are being taught how to cook Michelin–stared food. And, we are defi nitely going to see e-payment by customers through mobile to settle their food bills at restaurants.

Even with the entire technology dive we are going to see in future, we will still miss the human voice and touch. Given the trends in the food service industry and customer preferences, the number of chefs will grow significantly over the coming years. We need to nurture them and lay emphasis on training, better working environment and good salaries.

In the end, we want people to enjoy food. The situation can only turn win-win once we imbibe flexibility in managerial and operational approach in F&B business that benefit all stakeholders.