Young people come to us to get work experience and earn their first dollars. We take them in, we make sure they are dressed properly, we tell them the things that they have to do and not do, we feed them after a certain amount of time, we send them off on a break (obviously it’s not a nap anymore), we make sure they don’t hurt themselves and in the end they go home. This will repeat shift after shift until they don’t come anymore and you get new staff.
It’s quite similar to a day care centre, isn’t it? They only big difference is that we give them money instead of taking it.
Let me explain – I don’t have anything against getting young people and training them. I just want to point out the frustrating repeat cycles restaurateurs are going through year after year without any real reward. Why does it have to be like that? Why do Australian restaurateurs believe they have to hire unskilled staff to survive?
Young unskilled staff are cheap and restaurants can’t afford more. Is that really true? I’m not questioning the fact that restaurants need to watch their staff costs, but rather I’m questioning whether cheap unskilled staff are really a cost effective choice. One of them is cheap, yes – but because of their lack of skills you need more of them – and on top of that you need a supervisor who watches every step and tells them what to do. Is that really saving you money?
To find out, I would like to look at a different country. My home country Austria, for example, has no resources to export, so all they can sell is tourism. Hotels and restaurants are competing to be the most customer-friendly, because they need the guests to come back. A waiter in Austria is trained to be efficient and self-sufficient and every little pub provides full service. Customers enter, get seated and served in a very friendly way. How can they afford it? It is not like America where restaurant staff are paid minimum wages – they are actually getting paid the same, taking into account the cheaper cost of living. In Austria, being a waiter is considered a real career, so payment can’t be that bad.
When I first came to Australia I believed that it must be much cheaper to have unskilled waiters and partially self-service, so I didn’t think much more of it – until I saw the business figures. Front of House staff in Australia cost in average 14% of the sales, even for a pub with counter service where customers pick up their meals themselves – the same as in Austria. What’s going on here? In fact, it looks like the more unskilled workers a restaurant has, the more it actually struggles to keep the staff cost low.
Hiring, Training, Supervising, Hiring is the answer. These repeating management tasks are very expensive to uphold. One is permanently dealing with human resources and neglects all the other aspects of managing a business. Think about it. If you could hire the staff for your establishment and then not have to worry about it anymore for – let’s say – a year – wouldn’t that free up your resources for other management activities? Activities such as planning, organising and controlling – all of these fall regularly short because of lack of time.