What’s a restaurant without the people?


We explore everything related to the success of hospitality businesses that invest in “human capital”.

Hospitality means “friendly and generous behaviour towards guests”, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

Human Capital means “the skills, knowledge and experience of a person or group of people, seen as something valuable that an organization or country can use”.

The hospitality industry has undergone a massive change in direction over the last few years, and some say it is still recovering from the pandemic with its forced closures, lockdowns, masks and restricted trading. Add to this a swing towards online ordering and “contactless” dining, and the human side of hospitality seems to have suffered, with “casual” dining becoming the norm as venue owners cut costs by cutting down on human service.

Now in mid-2023, small to medium-sized hospitality venues like cafes, restaurants and bars are having to take a good hard look at how they are going to survive through interest rate rises, an increase in the cost of living, still-rising food costs and only last week, a 5.75% increase of the minimum wage.

In my hospitality career spanning decades, it remains clear that the human element must be at the forefront of operations to run a profitable venue. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? After all, hospitality is about human connection, generosity and having a great time while enjoying the experience of dining “out”.

We expect our servers and hosts to be friendly, knowledgeable, relaxed and welcoming but do we, as owners, put in the effort to make sure this happens?

Sadly, in many cases, staff engagement and satisfaction are often put to the wayside as owners focus on cutting corners to cut costs.

How do we keep staff engaged and interested in treating our guests with friendliness and generosity so they want to visit our venue again and again?

Repeat business is the best business.

Let’s look at what can be done.

Take time to recruit the right people who fit your company’s values.

Do you have a website and social media accounts that reflect what your venue is all about? Do you have a mission statement? Do you have a profile in mind of the person who best fits the advertised role? The better the fit, the more likely you will be happy, they will be happy, and your team will be happy with your selection.

Renumerate appropriately and appreciate often.

Gone are the days of offering staff the minimum wage. It’s insulting to anyone except an entry-level junior or a trainee. To create a team, you must create a hierarchy or, at the least, a ladder that can be climbed. Reward loyalty, those who stay with you, and those who make your business shine. Treat casual staff respectfully, offering regular yet flexible shifts for those juggling two jobs or children at home.

Document your staff’s journey with you and recognise their achievements.

Onboarding, inductions, job descriptions, performance reviews, salary reviews, training records, feedback loops, meetings attended, exit interviews, customer reviews, peer recognition, and contributions to creating recipes or service flows. Keep files on each employee, and don’t miss a birthday or a farewell gift.

If you are a hands-on venue owner or spend a lot of time selling and creating, documentation and compliance may seem overwhelming. Consider outsourcing to a professional human resources specialist who can create a system to suit your unique situation.

Let’s put the human element back into hospitality by investing in your team.