R U OK Day? A Hospitality Perspective

RUOK? A simple question but of vital importance, and one that could change or save a life.  Along with business success, one of the things NOSH Hospitality has always endeavoured to create a welcoming, warm and friendly place to work and meet friends.  We love what we do (hospitality) and whom we do it with (our clients & fellow NOSHies) but we also recognise that this is a robust industry that can wear even the strongest and most successful amongst us down.

Industry Pressure Cooked?

There have been various recent media pieces about the increasing difficulties & pressures that being a part of hospitality entail, however in Hospitality Magazine’s 2013 article “Exactly why is hospitality such a risky business”, highlights that the pressure has been building for some time.  So today, and every day but especially today, NOSH asks everyone to please take time to ask “R U OK”?  There have been unfortunately too many, but the tragic death of one of Sydney (and Australia’s) high-profile and successful chefs Jeremy Strode should act as a lightning rod for us all.  It is important for everyone to stop, listen and be on the lookout for each other…not just work mates but friends and family too.

Much has been written and covered in the media over recent times about the stresses and pressures of working in the hospitality industry.  Hospitality is undoubtedly one of the most fiercely competitive industries with new café, restaurant and event spaces opening by the day not to mention new catering businesses too.  It is not just the big cities of Sydney Melbourne and the like, but our growing and maturing industry is now across regional centres too.  A review of the Australian Bureau of Statistic (The ABS) shows that Canberra (yes Canberra!) has the most number of restaurant seats (per capita) in Australia (www.abs.gov.au).  A casual glimpse along any street in any town in Australia is all you need to do to see the increase not only in number but the quality of hospitality operations too.  When you include the various direct and indirect roles that hospitality encompasses, the ABS’s most recent labour force survey shows hospitality employing more than 1.4million people within the Australian economy.

Hospitality – anything but casual

That said there is also a significant trend toward the casualisation of labour as well as the outsourcing of labour recruitment and management to labour on-hire businesses like NOSH Hospitality which specialise in the sourcing, recruiting, development and rostering of staff for client businesses.  This presents both opportunity and peril at the same time.  At NOSH, our goal to assist as many people to find regular, ongoing and beneficial work assignments within the regions we service as we possibly can.   We see NOSH’s role as one of facilitator, and we are determined to help our team and clients alike.  Like all employers, businesses like NOSH are looking to encourage employment and alleviate the burgeoning underemployment rate across Australia by offering people additional and flexible work opportunities.

Skills Shortage – it is real, and it is getting worse

One of the substantial pressures on the hospitality industry is the well-publicised skills shortage.  Migration consultant Angela Chan was recently quoted by ABC News that hospitality and tourism will face a “projected shortage of 120,000 workers by 2020”…that’s a little over two years away.  If we, as an industry thought it is tough now…it’s only going to get tougher to find and retain a quality workforce.  As highlighted by Emily Stewart’s article, this terrifying figure is only made more worrying by the potential changes to the 457 Visa program.  High profile and world renown industry legend, Neil Perry has regularly expressed his concern and frustration about the proposed changes.  I was lucky enough to work with Perry’s Rockpool Group during my junior hospitality years.  What remains with me is his passion for the industry, the produce and product of the industry but also, and as importantly, his dedication to the people of the hospitality.  Only last night Perry was the ABC Lateline’s guest discussing the impacts of the 457 Visa changes on not only our industry’s ability to attract and retain world class people but also the detrimental consequences to Australia’s hospitality industry and wider economy too.  It is worth a look – if you have time check it out via Lateline and if you don’t, you should.

Hospitality – it is a people business not just a TV series

If only competition and staffing were but the only pressures on hospitality businesses…however, unfortunately, there’s more.  As with many industries, hospitality faces the increasing costs of property, fit-outs, power, produce and more.  Despite these rising costs, hospitality pricing has hardly changed over 20 years.  Hospitality is operating on smaller and smaller returns, yet expectations have at the same time continued to grow from our customers.  The exposure that TV shows such as MasterChef, MKR, Hell’s Kitchen and others have given to the trials and tribulations of hospitality has been a previously untapped marketing boon for our industry.  This too has placed greater pressure on restaurants and businesses to continue to innovate and develop at an increasingly fast pace. When “on-trend” menu items used be fashionable for a year or two or longer (how long did the prawn cocktail fad last?) now restaurant need to innovate, create and deliver “signature” dishes that may not last a season…

These increased pressures play out across the wider industry, not just business owners, managers chefs and senior staff.  Working with front line casual staff across our industry NOSH sees how the recent Award restructuring which restricts penalty rates has potential positive elements for business owners and the industry, but definite negative impacts on an already stressed workforce.  Regarding work force participation, what the industry does not need is any further disincentives to join our industry and take on work.

It is not all doom and gloom

Hospitality is filled will passionate vibrant people that are committed to delivering the best meal, venue, drink or event experience we can for our guests.  We are up early, on feet and moving about much of the day and finishing late at night and even early in the morning.  We do it because overwhelmingly we love what we do and get great pleasure from our industry and work mates and guests.   Many of us have vast experience across various sectors and coming from all every part of the world; hospitality is a window into cultures far and wide that we may otherwise be ignorant of.  Just think without hospitality, many of the general public wouldn’t know about simple things we take for granted.  Sushi. Baklava. XO sauce.  Tetsuya would remain unknown let alone Heston, Ottolenghi, Carluccio, Wolfgang Puck, Trotter or even Ducasse.  A strong hospitality industry is important to Australia, not just because of it’s economic contribution but also for its social and cultural diversity.  Hospitality and everyone that works within it has much to be proud of.


So with all with all this in mind, NOSH again calls everyone to take time to ask R U OK?  It is likely that at one point or other in everybody’s professional and/or personal life will need an ear to bend, a shoulder to rest on, or even just a friendly face to say hello and ask R U OK?  Fundamentally, everyone in hospitality is involved in looking after other people.  Let’s ensure that we take care of each other as well as we do our guests, customers, passengers.