Overpaid and over-promoted?

Although The Cutting Edge Agency specialises in food and beverage (F&B) brands and concepts, we are constantly — and I mean constantly — asked about sourcing staff for existing or future restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

As we do not work in recruitment per se, we happily pass on these requests to F&B recruitment specialists in the region. Note I said F&B recruitment specialists, not just recruitment agents.

Why, you may ask? Well quite simply, when I am engaging a recruitment agent for any of the projects I work on, I like to know that they have at least had some hands-on experience in the hospitality or F&B industry, thus giving me some peace of mind that the candidates I will interview have a broad-stroke understanding of the intricacies of good and consistent customer service.

When we are searching for staff with the qualities we require, we have in mind particular budgets and expectations for each and every position in our manning guide. This ultimately leads me to my opinion point today.

Maybe I am a traditionalist. I remember my first waiting job for a five-star hotel. The pay was lousy and the hours horrendous. But those gruelling years working one’s way up through the ranks of hospitality operations proved invaluable, and when I earned my first promotion it felt like a true accomplishment.

I am sorry to say — and this will be controversial to many, I am sure — that we have lost some of the magic of the industry in this region, and threatened the excellence of its hospitality by over-promoting and overpaying staff.

The number of times in the last 12 months I have been introduced to a ‘manager’ of a restaurant with three years’ total experience in the industry, or a ‘general manager’ who is yet to see the other side of 25! What are we doing?

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It is understandable that staffing becomes somewhat critical when key players leave an operation, or we open a new one and subsequently want the best talent from within the region to lead us forward. However, and I say this with the utmost respect, let us select colleagues that have earned the right for the position, and not just over promote to fill a gap. We do ourselves as operators an injustice, and we do the staff member the same as we rob them of the appropriate hands-on training and ultimately set them up to fail.

My second point relates to the gross overpayment of certain positions within the industry that push our F&B associates to follow the dollar rather than pursuit of steady career growth.

I have said before, we should look to form a benchmark association to set reasonable standards for F&B positions within the region, and employers should be encouraged to follow them. If this happens, it will create a reasonable and level playing field for all; we won’t see overzealous owners offering ridiculous salaries, only to close six months later and employees, having tasted the pay grade, expecting or demanding the same.

And poaching… well, that I will leave to another column, for another day!

We owe it to our staff, our fellow operators and, above all else, the industry to strive to create a fair and reasonable work place for all, with fair and reasonable employee benefit expectations, and a fair and reasonable career growth in mind.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency, which specialises in developing and creating benchmark F&B concepts through conceptualisation and training, as well as sourcing and partnering with international brands and high profile chefs to successfully establish their presence in the Middle East. Visit: www.thecuttingedgeagency.com

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