We all love to stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and go to fabulous events. And for those working in the industry, it’s one of the most exciting careers out there. But many people behind the scenes – the unsung heroes that keep the world of hospitality moving – are fed up. Finally, they are speaking up about what’s wrong in the industry, and how to make it right.
This is the first installment of our series focusing on the unsung heroes of the industry: entry level hospitality workers. Register for Hosco today to stay updated on how your peers are working for their voices to be heard.
Why people are leaving the industry
Michelle Uparella studied tourism and languages in her home town of Cartagena, Colombia. But with few career development opportunities on the horizon, she left in search of something better in Barcelona. After a year of waiting for a permit to work, she finally got a job as a receptionist at a 400-room student residency, complete with gym and swimming pool.
So far so good! But after just two days of training she was left alone with multiple responsibilities that had nothing to do with front desk duties, including maintenance and accounting. “I worked hard and did my best, but it left me feeling very bad, because I was faced with so many problems I couldn’t solve myself,” she told me. “Three receptionists left in the space of a month, and now I know why.”
Michelle’s shift soon increased to 46 hours per week, from the contracted 40. Her pay of €19,000 per annum, gross, remained the same. Her boss informed her she wouldn’t be paid for these extra hours, but given days off later in the year instead.
Michelle wasn’t being listened to or looked after. She handed in her notice and now plans to study psychology instead.
Challenging the “industry that doesn’t sleep”
Like Michelle, many junior and back office workers are busy keeping things running behind the scenes. They check guests in and out, peel potatoes, wash the dishes, clean the rooms, and bus the tables, among endless other tasks often at unsociable hours.
Yet, they are nearly always the worst paid, given the least training, work the longest shifts and enjoy the fewest benefits. They cannot work remotely. Wage growth is notoriously stagnant. Prospects for advancement are limited because of a lack of proper training. And often, they’re under unreasonable pressure by management and guests.
So, the big question is, what can the industry do about it?
How the pandemic changed things
The problems came to a head during the first lockdowns when people finally had the time and space to stop and think about where they were headed. As a result, close to 40% of hospitality workers decided not to return to the industry.
According to Restaurant Business Online, an estimated 700,000+ hotel and restaurant workers quit every month in 2021 in the USA alone. Many retrained to enter different industries for better pay and more attractive hours.
“I’ve always loved serving people,” says Ruben Burgen who works at a bar in Barcelona. “But my experiences have varied greatly. When I moved to London before the pandemic I worked for a man who verbally abused people every day. Nobody lasted more than a month or two.”
On returning to Barcelona, Ruben started working in the brewery of a craft beer pub. He worked his way up to managing the bar and an organizational role in the pub’s music venue, which is his true passion. Because he’s been able to move around to find a role that works for him, he says the positives of working in hospitality still outweigh the negatives.
But, being overworked and underpaid remains endemic. “Wherever you work, you’re likely to be understaffed, constantly stressed and lacking training,” he says. “The more employers go down this road the worse the situation gets. You end up feeling like you’re doing a bad job. But really, you’re just not being given the tools to do the right one.”
Where the hospitality industry can fix things
Most hospitality workers are extremely keen to progress. Employers need to start offering brighter prospects through regular training and career development, but also through proper communication and involvement.
People want to feel heard, understood and appreciated, especially during stressful times. Employers need to create a sense of belonging, pride and meaning at work. They need to show their people they value their personal life as much as their working life in concrete terms.
“Hospitality is about realizing why we are having these challenges in the first place,” says Denys Courtier, Regional Director Sales and Marketing at La Mamounia, Marrakech. “It’s not just about salaries and schedules. It’s also about consideration and respect for your people. Your first client is your staff. A hotel without the right team, and a happy team, simply does not work.”
Asking for what you want, to get what you need
Believe in your worth: paid vacation and sick time, flexible scheduling, competitive pay, health benefits, proper onboarding, ongoing training, and clearly defined career advancement possibilities are all reasonable asks. Employers will ignore them at their peril.
The industry is going through massive change, and it’s being led from the ground up. There’s never been a better time to transform hospitality into the exciting, life-changing opportunity it has the potential to be.
Today’s problems are tomorrow’s possibilities and there’s no better space for building an incredibly thrilling and fulfilling career.
Hosco knows that workers are the backbone of the hospitality industry. We always encourage our partners to improve conditions and create a sense of belonging at work. Check out our job listings today to find open roles with hospitality companies we believe in.