THE STORIES OF HOSPITALITY
THE STORIES OF HOSPITALITY
Without clarity, you may think this phrase is pretentious and absurd. I had the nerve to say this to my club’s treasurer years ago, then he immediately threw me out of the office. Really, this happened.
I have a philosophy behind this assertion.
While people react passionately to food, there must be a united establishment behind the affair.
I tried to explain this to the treasurer, as I could call any member and they would get on the phone within moments. You may say your membership does the same, however, this club’s memberships were doctors and executives associated with a leading medical school and numerous well-known hospitals. Try to reach your doctor with a quick phone call or call the office of the president or the dean and see how quickly you are talking to the leadership. In my case, I was able to talk almost immediately to doctors, presidents, the dean, and many executive members within moments, or they would call me right back. This was the relationship, and without hesitation, I can say this was power. Not power in the sense of control, or oversight, or strength over another, but acknowledgment from providing quality, and services, and comfort, and especially loyalty. This was loyalty to the position and the role behind the responsibility, and the membership responded with the same gift of respect. They did not perform this way because they had to, but willingly for they knew the value and wanted this relationship to be maintained.
I say food is power when this ability is compounded by many exceptional factors. The membership in this club was respected by me. Every member was regarded with the organization of knowing their likes, their needs, and their wants, oftentimes even before they knew what they wanted. Called by name upon arrival, seated immediately and oftentimes their favorite table, and offering their favorites while keeping them delighted with surprises as often as possible. The compounding of concerns to service and attention to details is especially important to success, yet the engagement of this commitment is oftentimes invisible or inconceivable in foodservice.
The consideration of treating people exceptionally, both guests and employees, is generally a common denominator in the club industry, but not in restaurants. However, this mindset may be needed in the transitioning of restaurant services in 2021 and beyond. The contemplation of a dramatic change is upon us, and without this consideration, we may see a further collapse of restaurants. Beware, a back-to-business-as-usual concept will be a cause for disappointment.
The understanding behind food is power is when an owner or manager realizes and provides the unquestionable realities that are required for success. If you harness an incredible atmosphere, encourage creativity, employ people that pass along this passion, and offer it unconditionally to your members and guests you will create an outcome that will attract business, and everyone will reap the pleasures that you have to offer.
We have the power to change people’s lives, albeit only for a moment.
You make sacrifices, you treat people well, you perform the role with heart and caring, and you change people’s lives. Hospitality is about power, but the kind that is given, not received.
By the way, the club’s treasurer was the Senior Associate Dean Director of Finance and whenever he was too busy to talk to me, I would return with hot fresh chocolate chip cookies, and he would always wave me in. True story.
Jim Lopolito, President
Lopolito Hospitality Consultants
THE DILEMMA OF HOSPITALITY TEAMS AND SALARIES IN 2021
When we compare satisfied employees with good pay the hospitality industry has been in a condition of instability and this began prior to 2020. While a solution has encompassed different directions but never resulted, the dilemma is being further plagued by an unexpected new competitor paying all our staff, and they are paying them a higher wage.
Rates of pay have been a hot topic for some time now, however, the burden upon businesses satisfying salary expectations has been further complicated in 2020 and now 2021. Front of House and Back of House staff have been talking better pay for years. With the current unemployment benefits going until September 2021, it will be difficult to get employees to return to work. The new unemployment benefits are offering the customary amounts plus an added three hundred dollars in supplemental pay. This means $500 to $800 a week salary for sitting home. Will we see staff return to a job that has many hours of stressful work, often difficult conditions, sometimes low morale and poor treatment, and less pay, or will this cause workers to stay home?
While I applaud the much-needed money for many families, how must we react to keep our businesses open and staffed?
Hospitality staff have been running to other jobs outside the industry for some time and even more so after COVID canceled their jobs. Many social posts by foodservice employees and especially chefs are all talking and telling each other about the difficult work environment with less available workers by their side. They are sharing discussions about better jobs and reasons to not return. The industry is a killer when it comes to hours worked for the often talked about unrealistic workload to pay received. Changes have been occurring to better the level of income; however, it may be a little late. While passionate staff will hopefully remain, it is more difficult to keep required staff levels, and turnover is only going to increase in the months ahead.
The options to bring staff back may be limited right now, and do not believe that this is going away any time soon. Staff is running to other industries than food services and they are taking their friends with them. If you do not settle upon a way to secure your team, and soon as summer is coming, you may be left holding up the business with limited staff. As the owner or manager, you will do a lot more than you expected or can accomplish.
We are in a serious position with staffing our restaurants, our private clubs, our café’s, and our catering businesses unless we can come up with solutions.
In addition, low levels of staff and high turnover associate with guest dissatisfaction. We all know the outcomes of poor service and lower quality food output. From losing customers to paying the price in online posts that kill business, now is the time to step up with a plan.
What can you do short term?
1) Enlist good quality ad-hoc staff on the busy days and pay them well so that they will work the days offset from unemployment benefits. If they can pick up a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday at a good rate, and perhaps still receive a good portion of their unemployment benefits, this is a win for both.
2) Reboot your menu with lower-cost items with less prep and cooking needs to reduce staff requirements. Pay the people you have a higher wage to keep them. While not for every category, this may suit smaller locations over the short term of 2021.
3) You made it through the 2020 season and want to meet the demand of added revenue from the locations nearby that may have closed. Put this to the test and increase your rates of pay, add between 10-50 cents per menu item, concentrate on other cost reductions, and teach your team what items have the highest potential for profits. Keep in mind that the higher-cost items may yield the most profits. Sell profits.
4) Purchase the restaurant next door that closed during COVID. Utilize this addition to maximize your staff needs and your preparation needs. IE: all prep is done at one location, the staff has more hours available and work security with two locations, transfer product between locations as necessary to improve utilization, use one location as a commissary kitchen (Ghost Kitchen), etc.
5) Sell safety over food and service. Guests are more interested in how safe they will be over how good your food or service is. Tell guests what you are doing and Sell Safety to get them in the door.
Whatever you come up with, business as usual is not coming back anytime soon. You cannot wait until things settle down because too much has changed.
The way you did business in the past is gone for now. Step up and plan.
Jim Lopolito, President
Lopolito Hospitality Consultants, Corp. (LHC) is a New York based consulting firm that offers Recovery Facilitation, Startup Development, Feasibility Studies, and Forward-Thinking Solutions alongside Operational and Management Practices to businesses in the hospitality industry.