30 December 2008

Working in the Hospitality Industry in Canberra

| Enthusiastic amateur
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Greetings everybody, I’m a long time lurker and first time poster. I moved back to Canberra about 5 years ago after a happy and fruitful hospitality career in Australia in 5 star hotels (mostly food and beverage) .I was looking forward to coming home back in 2003, and hoped to gain employment in the field that I had plenty of experience in , both in the kitchen and front of house. However after 6 months and several “trials” and interviews I still found myself unemployed. I was perplexed and frustrated at the time but adjusted my sights and found employment in an entirely different field which I enjoyed.

To cut a long story short I am now looking to return to work in the first half of 2009 when my baby will be 6 months old. I am hoping to find work in hospitality due to the flexibility of that line of work and am curious as to what Canberra hospitality business owners are looking for, admittedly I am “old” 38 but have bucket loads of experience and take a great deal of pride in giving exemplary customer service. I suspect my down fall last time was my age, I will cost more to employ than a wet behind the ears 18 year old. I have been very dissapointed with the standard of service in the overwhelming majority of Canberras restaurants and bars and having read that severalof the regs here have had bad experiences with the service in Canberras hospitality outlets I would be interested to know, what I did”wrong” last time and what makes a good waitress / bar tender / host in Canberra.

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EA – as someone has recently (and wisely) observed, beware the Ides of RA. I’d rather get the grizzled sarcastic bone of discontent that dwells here than a utopian blather of sweetness (well, okay, sometimes it’s nice to get “niceness”).

My two-penneth worth – don’t hide the fact that you have a youngun. I’m sure that you are justly proud of your littleun, and I’m also sure that you wouldn’t be contemplating a return to work without adequate childcare arrangements. Just be prepared for the yeah-but/whatif questions so that you aren’t caught out in an interview. Things I would consider would be along the lines of can you work at short notice? What hours are you available? Do you have reliable childcare? Yadayada…

Think about where it is that you want to work – do you bus/drive? Start with the location, if applicable, and then look at what businesses there are in that area. Then move on to what facet of hospitality it is that you would like to get back into. Is this the continuation/commencement of a career? Are there specific goals that you want to achieve, or is work simply going to allow you to actually live your life? Knowing what sort of work you want to do will go a long way to, erm, shortening the list of likely workplaces.

Go visit some of your shortlist as a customer. Take note of the staff that they do have, their “style” so to speak. With your experience, you’ll be able to get an idea of how things are run, what the pace of the business is (etc), and basically, whether it sucks or not. Can save a lot of heartache.

Unless you are applying to the Hyatt, I’d probably stick to highlighting your skills/abilities rather than the star rating of the places you have worked in. From my own experience, you can just as easily have an incredibly negative experience in a 5-star establishment as anywhere else. So too, you can have a truly wonderful experience at the local greasy spoon.

Be realistic about your expectations. A 5 year hiatus may go against you, though you may have relevant experience from what you have been doing in the meantime.

As to the relevant level (or lack thereof) of service standards in Canberra, I think it all depends on what it is that you think you whould be receiving, and just where it is that you are going. Also depends on how well you as the customer are willing to behave. Treat people like crap, they will respond in kind. Treat as you would like to be treated – doesn’t cost a lot to be nice to people.

Besides, being rude to your waiter/waitress/non-genderspecificservingperson is almost as dangerous as being Rude to an Arab.

“Mate, as a hospitality employer in Canberra for the past ten years I have to tell you that if you haven’t got a job yet it has to be you. Do you all really think that we as employers want to employ these dumb, rude and idiot staff? Well we don’t, it’s because there are no good staff out there. The staff that are good, are well looked after where they are and aren’t moving. I have put job ads in only to get three applications – all from 16 year olds. We pay well, Ok – the hours are bad but the work is fun – and there are some perks.

I would take a look at yourself before we all start bagging the hospitality outlets working their guts out to try to train and keep good staff.”

Man, your attitude speaks for itself and is typical of the general paranoid hostility employers in hospitality project on to their staff.
Instead of attacking EA, how about offering EA a job?

I would be interested to know, what I did”wrong” last time and what makes a good waitress / bar tender / host in Canberra.

Could I offer that you seek advice from the Gold Coast or oversees, as I think it has been so long since Canberrans have seen quality service that we wouldn’t know it if we saw it. The poor quality of many hospitality workers has resulted in a lowering of the customer’s expectations.

If you are confident that you were proficient at exemplary customer service, and you have explored other fields which you enjoyed, I would suggest sticking with them rather than compromising your own standards just to join the mediocrity of Canberra hospitality. Canberra is full of other great opportunities (which is no doubt part of the problem of attracting and retaining quality hospitality workers).

Enthusiastic amateur3:37 pm 01 Jan 09

I would take a look at yourself before we all start bagging the hospitality outlets working their guts out to try to train and keep good staff.

oh dear, I seem to have touched a nerve here. I have now read over my original post a couple of times and got others to read it too, apart from commenting on the less than great service I have encountered at many of Canberra’s Hospitality outlets (as many of the regulars have before me) could you please point out where I “bagged ” the hospitality outlets? I have worked in the industry for over 15 years, doing everything from housekeeping, bar work, reception, fast food, fine dining,banquet work and hospitality admin, it kept a roof over my head and food on my table for a long time, why would I bite the hand that’s fed me for so many years?

This comment made me scratch my head too:

Lastly, if you really want hospitality work, you will need to stop referring to yourself as “amateur”:The amateur nickname / status was meant to refer to my newbie status here on RiotACT, I realise that the internet is often not the best place to get ones message across as you can’t hear what is being said or see the persons face when they are saying and judge meaning by tone and facial expression so meh, I’ll let this one slide….

Get professional and work on your self-esteem. You should seek honest feedback on why you failed during those trials and interviews: I would always call and ask for feedback, I could count on the fingers of one hand the responses I’d get and yes, I would call outside service times.

The boss will only think the increase in customers is due to their great food or great management or great advertising.

What I mean is you need to be seen to be working hard by the chef/management, and this is a higher priority than giving 100% to customers, as the management are paying your wages.

So, for example, you need to pick up food from the kitchen as soon as the bell goes, as this impresses the chef, instead of stopping by table 3 to ask if they need more water.

sepi said :

I’ve thought about this, and one important thing to remember, is that the Chef/Manager is your boss, so it is more important to keep them happy, rather than the customers.

Surely keeping the customers happy (and paying plenty of money and coming back to the establishment repeatedly) is the best way to keep your boss happy?

tylersmayhem12:51 pm 01 Jan 09

I have put job ads in only to get three applications – all from 16 year olds.

I’m curious why this would be a real problem. Is it because of thier age per-se – or they lacked interest to learn?

burkes08 said :

Mate, as a hospitality employer in Canberra for the past ten years I have to tell you that if you haven’t got a job yet it has to be you.

Enthusiastic Amateur I did wonder how you could be unemployed if you’re competent and personable. You may be too keen and enthusiastic. Hospitality staff need to be able to gauge customers’ reactions and adjust their approach accordingly. Sometimes hospitality staff are dreadful for an unusual reason. There was a very nice woman serving at a well-known cafe in the inner north recently who wore loads of cheap ‘green’ scent. She reeked! It was a real turnoff and coloured any perception of her. She should not have put a manager in the unpleasant position of having to either get rid of her or talk to her about something so personal.

Similarly, a well-known Canberra musician was working in a trendy cafe in Sydney early in his career, and wore singlets to work. No-one wants to face a stranger’s underarm hair over breakfast!

Are you as pleasant and enthusiastic toward your team members as customers? I’ve observed hospitality staff brutalising colleagues while being very nice to customers.

Lastly, if you really want hospitality work, you will need to stop referring to yourself as “amateur”. Get professional and work on your self-esteem. You should seek honest feedback on why you failed during those trials and interviews.

Nothing wrong with hot 22yr olds with good cans!

Mate, as a hospitality employer in Canberra for the past ten years I have to tell you that if you haven’t got a job yet it has to be you. Do you all really think that we as employers want to employ these dumb, rude and idiot staff? Well we don’t, it’s because there are no good staff out there. The staff that are good, are well looked after where they are and aren’t moving. I have put job ads in only to get three applications – all from 16 year olds. We pay well, Ok – the hours are bad but the work is fun – and there are some perks.

I would take a look at yourself before we all start bagging the hospitality outlets working their guts out to try to train and keep good staff.

tylersmayhem3:27 pm 31 Dec 08

I’d suggest the Casino and/or several clubs around Canberra like Yowani golf club etc.

My sister-in-law has recently moved around in the hospitality industry over the last year, and she worked at Yowani and now just started at the Casino. Admittedly she has no kids that she has to consider. After working over 10 years in the industry, I’d never try to balance parenthood and hospitality in a pink fit.

Unless you LOVE hospitality, perhaps redirect your career towards other fields (reception, secretary, office admin). the skill you have learned in the industry are bound to read well if you are prepared to start from the bottom of the ladder. The more civilised hours are worth it!

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy3:25 pm 31 Dec 08

Thanks for repeating my comment. Repeating adds emphasis!

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

I think to be employed in hospitality in this town you have to be Gen Y, rude and a moron.

I’ve thought about this, and one important thing to remember, is that the Chef/Manager is your boss, so it is more important to keep them happy, rather than the customers.

Make sure you either don’t mention the baby or make a point of mentioning how absolutley brilliant and flexible your child care arrangements are (which obviously they’d have to be if you’re serious about re-entering the workforce in hospitality!)or regardless of your experience you’ll get descriminated against!

The City West Arts Precinct adjacent to the ANU campus is getting increasingly busy and new businesses will be opening in the completed buildings soon. Lots of established businesses in the area have help wanted signs up but investigate before the student population gets back (February).

When dining out in Sydney, I’m struck again and again by the differences. In Canberra, we get great food and sh!t service. In Sydney, the service tends to be far better (usually) but the food is often very underwhelming. Unlike the prices.

I cannot stand the vacuous idiocy that passes for service here. If they are truly prefering to hire usless kiddies rather than skilled, motivated 30-somethings then they suck!

Certainly the response when I tried to book a late lunch for a minister from a foreign gov’t at Aubergine caused me to phone back and cancel, and move the lunch to Watersedge. The staff there (certainly when we dealt with them) sounded very mature.

My advice is aim high. Go for the distinguished establishments who care about exemplaries.

Try the Plaka Restaurant in Mawson. I heard they are looking for experienced and mature staff who like to work.

The Hyatt use to do silver service, and also many of the clubs around town (Austrian club etc) have waitresses who are not in their teens.

Good luck with it = Canberra needs some decent watresses.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy10:18 pm 30 Dec 08

I think to be employed in hospitality in this town you have to be Gen Y, rude and a moron.

Pandy said :

being 22 helps or so I have noticed

22 is pushing it a bit, between 16 or 18 is more like it. Though I did have dinner at hogs breath at woden a fair while ago and the waiting staff looked like they were about 12. About the age where everything you ask for is confusing and oh I better go ask something if we can do that.

Having said that I think pretty much every food establishment is desperate for staff (may have changed since the “economic crisis”), I have heard of cafes hiring whoever bothers turning up for an interview. Reliable is pretty much what they want, someone who will turn up to work for every shift and on time, which from experience anyone under about 21 thesedays views work as I will turn up when and if I can bothered.

I was at Cafe Alternberg in Braidwood the other day where the pretty young things there managed to completely forget my order for lunch. When I asked them, politely, where my lunch was they looked at me dumbly as if I had done something wrong. They then informed me that our lunches in fact had been totally forgotten and it would be another 20-30 minutes before it was ready.

As such, I got a refund. Which was short changed $30, and even after I pointed out how wrong they were, stroppily gave me back the money.

Give me a cheerful, efficient 38 year old any day over stroppy, pretty young things who seem to have a chip on their shoulder the size of tasmania, and seem to think that they are doing you a huge favour by simply doing their job.

being 22 helps or so I have noticed

barking toad6:49 pm 30 Dec 08

Depends on measurements/hotness factor – please advise

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