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Hotels and restaurants have had trouble hiring, so they innovated

Stephanie Hughes Jul 17, 2023
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After two summers of worker shortages on Cape Cod, some restaurant and hotel owners have become more efficient, "enabling them to operate with a smaller staff,” the Beige Book says. Tim Graham/Getty Images

Hotels and restaurants have had trouble hiring, so they innovated

Stephanie Hughes Jul 17, 2023
Heard on:
After two summers of worker shortages on Cape Cod, some restaurant and hotel owners have become more efficient, "enabling them to operate with a smaller staff,” the Beige Book says. Tim Graham/Getty Images
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Used to be, if you wanted to order takeout from Mac’s Seafood, which has multiple locations on Cape Cod, you had to call them up.

And Mac Hay, the owner, said those conversations could get lengthy. 

“You’d ask a question as a person that’s taking the order, they’d turn around and ask the people in the room, ‘Did we want to add onions?’ And then It’s like, oh, my God, you’re waiting there, and you’ve got five people on hold,” Hay said.

Then, during the pandemic, Mac’s Seafood adopted online ordering. Hay estimates it’s saved five to seven minutes of staff time on each order, and it’s one of a number of measures they’ve taken to maximize staff time.

Lots of companies that work in hospitality had to get creative when they had trouble hiring over the last couple of years, and now, some of those innovations have changed the way the industry works. Case in point: this tidbit from the Federal Reserve’s most recent Beige Book from the Boston Fed: “Following two summers of worker shortages on Cape Cod, some restaurant and hotel owners there have achieved efficiencies enabling them to operate with a smaller staff.”

Some hotels have turned to automating tasks and have guests check in at kiosks or on their phones.

“You’d lose the human touch a little bit, but for many of these things, they’re transactional business people,” said Stephen Pratt, a tourism professor at the University of Central Florida.

In fact, our desire to avoid the human touch during the pandemic gave hotels the opportunity to make certain services that had once been expected more a la carte. 

Like room cleaning.

“At the beginning, we didn’t want people in our rooms,” said David Sherwyn, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “I don’t need turndown service. I don’t know where you’ve been, you know.”

Hotels also need fewer staff to manage their staff and are turning to software instead. 

“If the shift comes available, it goes, Stephanie, to you first. You have 15 minutes or 10 minutes or five minutes. And if you don’t get it, then it goes to me. And so it’s all automated. That used to be a human making phone calls,” Sherwyn said.

It’s also key to think carefully about which humans you do hire, said restaurant owner Hay. 

“When there’s a labor shortage, even though you might want to just grab anybody that can fill the shift, you really want to still keep your standards high and hire a high-quality employee,” Hay said.

Because, as tourism professor Pratt points out, when people think about hospitality, they may say they’re going someplace for the sights or the food. But what they’ll remember are the people they meet.

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