Hospitality Business February 2022

Page 10


Reconnecting during a pandemic


By Marisa Bidois, CEO Restaurant Association of New Zealand.

he pandemic has unquestionably forced us to change habits, examine what and who we value and think about how we want to live our lives. Habits and lifestyles built up over a lifetime have been broken down, giving people a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign how they live their lives. Among this, businesses have been forced to close and reshape their relationships with their customers and staff. The transition for hospitality establishments, designed to do exactly the things we’ve been asked to avoid doing, has not been easy. But human beings are social creatures. Eventually the need to reconnect will win over the structures built to keep us apart. We need people back in workplaces, working collaboratively and connecting with their teams.

Whilst remote working is undoubtedly here to stay, experts have shown that a mix of both is what is important in ensuring businesses stay connected. The inconvenient truth is that we need sufficient numbers of people coming into physical workplaces or we will see our city centres suffer. To do this we need our business leaders to play their part in creating work patterns which allow for both remote and workplace working. It is also vitally important that city centre experiences become part of our tourism story. There is a real opportunity to highlight our local food stories even more and work on how we market this as a sector. I would love to see more of our food experiences being showcased and hospitality being included in how we promote our various regions domestically and eventually internationally. We know that people will travel to experience incredible food and I think we have the opportunity to refine this and perfect this in our offerings. To be able to deliver these world class hospitality experiences, we must fix the legacy issue of worker shortages. Sadly, our industry suffers from a reputational issue that it doesn’t deserve so we need to work on the narrative around what it means to be part of hospitality. We know we can provide rewarding careers. There are endless

“There are endless opportunities to excel and many of our people go on to open their own business after learning their craft..”


opportunities to excel and many of our people go on to open their own business after learning their craft. This means focusing on education at a grassroots level, working with the schools and career counsellors to ensure that they know about all the exciting opportunities that are available in our sector. There is a lot of work to do but this is something we have collectively trying to tackle through a recent Wannaga that was held to address issues like this in our sector. This year we also released our future of hospitality roadmap. In a submission to the Finance Minister in September, stage one of the roadmap put before government eight practical solutions to get businesses back on their feet, some of which have come to fruition for example through wage subsidy extensions and the transition payment. Stages two and three focus on the recovery and sustainability of our sector and outline the guidelines for a future hospitality business model. There are many legacy issues that our industry has suffered with. The pandemic has exacerbated these but it has also given us a unique opportunity to focus on these issues and force a reset. Hospitality is a vibrant industry full of interesting, talented and entrepreneurial people. At the Restaurant Association, the roadmap is our focus for the years ahead and sets out how the sector proposes to not only attract more Kiwis to a career in hospitality, but pave the way for it to be seen as a leader in providing a skilled workforce. This will ensure a well-rounded, productive industry that is a vital contributor to social well-being, nationwide tourism and the growth of the wider New Zealand economy. Notes – The Future of Hospitality Roadmap is available to view on the Restaurant Association website. n

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