It’s Friday in Wine Country and the vineyards have morphed into colorful patchwork covers as the cool nights continue to push the leaves from green to red to gold.
Unite Here Local 2 President, Mike Casey claims that hotel management is looking for fewer people to do more work. While Casey may think this is a disputable point, more managers and owners are using this practice to offset decreased revenue, customer counts and diminishing profits.
One reason the unemployment rate is high, and will remain high, is because businesses have over hired throughout the past decade. Profit conscious managers and owners are using the recession and the continually increasing unemployment rates to give more responsibilities to employees while redefining job descriptions and duties.
This may seem like an assault on the worker, however, with an unemployment rate rapidly approaching 12 percent, the theory that everyone is replaceable holds true. I am not one to encourage continual replacement of team players. But I do support the concept that a team pulls together during tough times and does everything they can to win the game, save the ship, increase profits, or whatever clich? seems to fit these tumultuous times.
In the restaurant industry, the past years have been profitable for well run restaurants and those who work in them. The recession has changed that. And, in order to stay afloat, many restaurants have cut back on staff while expecting the same amount of work and duties to be completed.
Unlike other industries, the majority of repetitive work needs to be completed daily in the hospitality industry whether the property is busy or not. Food needs to be prepped, dining rooms need cleaning, bathrooms need polishing, windows, doors, and silverware needs to be checked. All of these steps- in many cases side-work still have to be addressed whether ten waiters or one waiter shows up for a shift.
I once added bathroom cleaning to a waiter’s side work checklist. Upon checking a bathroom to see if the waiter had adequately cleaned it I was told that she didn’t clean her bathroom at her home. She had a maid. I explained I was pleased that she earned so much money she could afford a maid. I added I had no problem if she wanted to bring the maid the next time she was scheduled to work but she had to clean the bathroom.
That was during the last recession. And, because of major staff cut-backs and a redistribution of responsibilities I survived and grew my small restaurant group. Once the recession was over, I didn’t overload my payroll with employees I didn’t need. The redistribution of responsibilities changed my business model and profit margin. I managed to trim my payroll percentage and get the most out of a team of professionals.
That may be what the industry needs today. In order to succeed we need to make sure we are fair with our employees and that they are fair with management. One of the criteria I used to promote people to management was to analyze how they handled their responsibilities as they worked their way to the top.
There is nothing wrong with asking employees to work a little harder, to share duties and to contribute during tough times.
To search for gold in a riverbed that is drying up is professional foolishness. If Casey would realize the amount of hotels in California that are approaching foreclosure is staggering, he may stop preaching about too much work and start being thankful his members are employed, at all.