Serving suggestion: Could conscription ease the hospitality staffing crisis?

[The Sydney Morning Herald] The coffee order gets mixed-up. The main courses take too long. It’s hard to wave someone down to get the bill. Welcome to dining out in 2022, a unique (hopefully) period of time in which restaurateurs are thrilled to be open again, yet shocked by how hard it is to get staff. And by how much they have to pay them. And if they do get staff, by how hard it is to rely on them turning up to work (floods, Omicron, child-care issues).


It’s probably a good thing that our hospitality industry is forced to reduce its entrenched reliance on a continuous flow of backpackers, students and skilled workers (because that flow is no longer continuous), but it’s going to be a rocky road to recovery.

So here’s an idea. Sacrifice your kids. If you have a spare 18-year-old daughter or son who’s looking to earn a bit of extra money, then tell ’em to go work in a restaurant. Yes, it’s a tough job, but guess what, kids, everything’s tough. And think of what they’ll get out of it, apart from cash and the ability to carry three plates on one arm (so impressive).

They’ll learn how to talk to people, and how to listen. To approach a group of strangers with a smile. To think about people other than themselves. That switch alone is the key to great hospitality, and an extraordinary thing for an 18-year-old to absorb and acquire. They’ll also learn how to operate as part of a team, to show up, to say no, and to see people at their best and their worst and not take it personally, but professionally.

If all our school-leavers were conscripted to do a week of basic hospo skills before moving onto a month or two of employment in a local restaurant or cafe, our hospitality scene would be revitalised.

But why stick to just school-leavers? What about retirees? Refugees and asylum-seekers? You? Me? Just a quick skills-oriented course to learn the basics, then get matched to employers as if it’s date night. It would do us the world of good. Not to mention turn us all into diners who appreciate being looked after, who are always nice to their serving staff, and who don’t think twice about leaving a nice fat tip.

Published by Australian Hospitality Alumni Network Vietnam (AHA Vietnam)

The Official Platform for Australian Hospitality & Tourism Alumni and Professionals in Vietnam.

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