The big read: At your service – or maybe not, as labor shortages worsen for hotels and restaurants

The F&B industry – which relies heavily on labor from neighboring countries like Malaysia – also faces a labor shortage of around 20-30%, a spokesperson for the agency said. Restaurant Association of Singapore.

“Of course the longer the queues to get into the restaurant, and in some cases a slightly longer wait at the table for the food to arrive led to customer service issues, but credit has to be given to the majority of diners who have been more patient and understanding,” the spokesperson said.

CASE President Melvin Yong said that during peak periods, it is the hotel’s responsibility to plan and allocate its workforce to ensure a smooth and enjoyable guest experience.

“If there are service failures, hotels should offer some form of service recovery, such as vouchers, discounts, a free drink at the lounge, to compensate their guests, as some hotels have done,” said said Mr. Yong, who is also an MP and Deputy General Secretary of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

‘THIN STRETCHED STAFF’

Hotels and catering companies said the main reason for the worsening labor shortage is that many of their foreign workers have decided to return home and not renew their work permits, after being unable to visit their families for two years.

Mr. Brendan Daly, General Manager of the Yotel Singapore hotel in Orchard Road, said the hotel has vacancies in all of its operational departments, including housekeeping, reception, engineering as well as in its Komyuniti bar and restaurant.

“Housekeeping is the most difficult area as we are struggling to recruit locally for this position and are struggling to recruit foreign workers at the moment,” Mr Daly said, adding that Komyuniti wait staff was the second hardest role to fill.

Although the hotel has had busy times when staff members were overwhelmed with work, Mr Daly said he was lucky to have a group of long-term guests from Malaysia who required room service. less frequent than short-term clients.

Mr. Sharma, director of Marriott International, said the group’s hotels in Singapore often operate with many contract and part-time employees, usually from neighboring countries.

With travel restrictions, the group has struggled to get these workers back to Singapore. Housekeeping and catering services at its hotels have been particularly hard hit, Sharma said.

The group’s hotels are also struggling to keep pace with rapidly changing COVID-19 restaurant dining rules, he added. He cited how during the April-June 2020 circuit breaker, his restaurants were operating with a reduced staff.

When the rules changed to allow dine-in on site, he had to put in place a new system which was much more labor intensive and it was “not the easiest task” to hire staff from qualified service on short notice, he said.

And when buffets were reintroduced, the group could only offer one meal period per day before gradually increasing the number of times as more staff came on board, Mr Sharma said. .

Self-service buffets are currently still banned in Singapore to curb the spread of COVID-19 among diners and staff.

Buffets were allowed to resume in mid-2021, but servers must distribute food items to diners, who are not allowed to help themselves to food.

The restriction led popular buffet restaurant chain Seoul Garden to revamp its business model in August last year and introduce an a la carte menu.

Now it is facing another crisis after some foreign employees returned home, mostly to Malaysia, to visit their families when the vaccinated traffic lanes started to open in recent months.

Seoul Garden Group now has about 160 employees across its 16 outlets, up from nearly 200 employees before the pandemic. Its development director, Garry Lam, 53, said the group currently has around 60% of the workforce it needs.

“A lot of F&B players face the same problem, they can only depend on local labor. So what they can do is poach employees from other establishments,” he said. -he declares.

Currently, restaurant office staff have had to help with front-line service if needed, he added.

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