How tech can help the industry recover from the staffing shortage

Brigad joined a host of talented businesses last month at the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering (HRC) trade show - which took place at Excel London. The event showcased innovative hospitality practices, technology and talks from experts in the industry. This year Florent Malbranche, Brigad’s CEO, hosted a panel which offered insights on how technology can help the industry recover from the current staffing shortage

Joining Florent on the panel was David Williams, a skilled chef with ten years of experience, and Steven Driscoll, the restaurant manager at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, a luxury hotel. Rounding off the panel was JP Then, the co-founder of Crosstown, the award-winning doughnut supplier, and Slerp, the online ordering service which won the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator award in 2023, as well as the Community award in 2022 from Mayfair & St. James’.

The panel discussed what solutions to the staffing crisis are currently available, if they support the current industry and how. They also explored how the industry can learn from past innovations to improve the future to support and improve current challenges with case studies from both businesses and individuals.

How is the industry at the moment, given the current staffing crisis?

Florent directed his first question to Steven, asking for a business’s perspective on the current staffing crisis.  “In one word: hard. There are a lot of factors at play, including Brexit and the pandemic, which are making it very difficult for businesses to find the right staff, motivate them, and keep them. It’s almost impossible.”

Steven said that “a key part of the business is flexibility. We get a lot of great opportunities and events, but they often come at the last minute. This means we have to be flexible with our workforce, in order to meet client and customer satisfaction.”

Florent brought up the concept of power dynamics in the workplace and wondered whether there is more of an equal relationship between businesses and workers today, largely because of apps like Brigad which give workers more freedom over their hours and pay, but also because of the wide array of positions available for talent in the industry. Steven agreed: 

“Completely. It’s not like before when people would stay in a workplace for a long time. If you don’t look after your workforce, then they will go elsewhere.”

How has technology, like Brigad, changed the industry?

The panel agreed that the current staffing issue has made many businesses and workers turn to technology to find work/workers, as traditional agencies are unable to resource enough workers. Steven said that: “Brigad gave them an alternative and the flexibility that they needed as a business.” He added that Brigad was also able to link his hotel to “people who were very well trained and experienced.”

JP added that the key to keeping staff after the pandemic is in finding people who believe in the company and its values. He said businesses need to offer clear flexibility within the role, which Brigad users have, but even more, explore ways that the company can change to attract talent, as the industry is constantly changing, a business needs to change too. 

David said that using Brigad had changed the workplace for chefs like himself and that using apps to find work and be paid seems like the next progression after realising the benefit he gains from using apps in other aspects of his life. 

Is all tech good tech? 

With so much technology being pushed in all industries today, many people have become wary of new tech. Florent reflected on his experience founding Brigad in France, and how he had found pushback from businesses from introducing new technology in the workplace. JP agreed and said that he had the same experience, but that he saw the new technology as “stepping stones” which create solutions to problems in the industry. JP said that the key to using the right tech is to understand how it can help your business fix problems and make the job easier.  

Steven brought in his own experience of introducing Brigad to The Berkeley, and found initial pushback from the chefs at the idea of using this new technology. However, “soon they started to realise the benefits of using the app - the key is in understanding that methods of the past can’t always be methods for the future.” Once Steven’s staff became comfortable using the Brigad app, they saw the benefits of using the technology. “We have to embrace change as a sector.”

JP added that the hospitality industry is dynamic and always changing - “many people start their businesses set on what they want it to be and struggle to adapt that idea when they face problems. Businesses have to change - and part of this is embracing new technologies. In the end, successful companies will be the ones who are adapting.”

Allowing businesses to thrive 

The panel highlighted how important technology is for the hospitality sector. Each member emphasised how often and how quickly the industry can change - it is a dynamic industry that is always changing. New technology may not want to be brought into a workplace that has been used to working the same way for many years, but all businesses have to grow, and adapting to use technology is part of this growth. JP outlined how new tech is developed to make work easier, not harder, for the business and the user/worker. 

Florent brought up a customer survey conducted by Brigad wherein 75% of people suggested that they would stay in the industry thanks to technology like the Brigad App which has given them more control over their career - in both recognition from businesses, flexibility, pay, and hours. David said that he and others in the industry “appreciate what Brigad brings to the role.”

Questions from the audience

“You spoke about flexibility from the perspective of the industry - how do you feel about it from the perspective of a tech solution? Do you think it’s a strength or a weakness?”

Steven answered and highlighted that the challenge for the hospitality sector has been in finding flexibility for their staff and that businesses cannot dictate employee time as much as they used to. “Businesses need to look after and nurture their staff, and part of this is within allowing flexibility, which is why we went looking for Brigad, which makes that flexibility possible.”

“What is the level of skill coming with Brigad’s talent?”

Stephen said that “post-pandemic, there are not as many people in the industry, and so you have to make time to grow talent and teach them skills. However, with Brigad offering flexibility, the people coming through are talented and professional, and I would not have hired 12 of them at The Berkeley if they weren’t.”

JP: “Stay positive. If you have a good level of service, and a quality product,  you’ll have a quality business. With tech - make sure it fulfils an objective in your business.”

Steven: “Keep workers motivated - make sure they understand why they work for you, what opportunities are available to them and where there are chances to grow.”

Key takeaways:

David: “Technology is important in our roles now. Embrace new technology to do better work every day.”

You can watch the talk in full here.

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