In order to solve the employment crisis in the UAE food and beverage industry operators must improve working conditions, flexibility and above all pay better salaries, according to a panel of industry experts speaking at the Catering News ME Big F&B Forum, held at the Ritz Carlton, JBR, yesterday.
Uwe Micheel, director of Kitchens at Radisson Blue Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, told a room of over 200 industry delegates: “Changing visa regulations and lobbying the government is not imperative as there simply isn’t the staff available, and that is because wages are too low to draw staff.”
Piers Burton, executive director of Eagles Spearing Consulting, said: “Properly paid staff are more likely to be retained, but they are so poorly payed in this market that they are easily poached by Kuwait and Qatar as they are trained. Elsewhere in the world junior staff earn more money with second jobs but that is not even entertained here.”
He added: “People that think they can’t afford to pay for the right staff probably won’t be in business for very long time.”
Paul Smith, ceo of Liwa Minor, said: “The key is train people well and to the standard that they can leave but treat them well so they don’t want to leave.
Uwe added: “Interest to join this industry is low. Low salaries and long hours make it disinteresting. People want more today.
“In countries where it works we have proper training and development and a pay structure. Through an agency here you don’t even know if you will get the same person a second time – and there is no loyalty. You may to train temporary staff and then never see them again.”
“F&B workers are seen as second class citizens here and so we need a change in mind set. If this industry is a pillar for Dubai then we need to find ways to make this work better,” said Paul.
He added: “We have got to look at what motivates the generation coming through. They want everything straight away no delay satisfaction. We need to make a career path clear and make it obvious how they can achieve it.
“Most important to provide quality experience to your customers and that boils down to your staff, but investment is often seen as cost here.”
Piers believes that hotel group and operators need to talk with Dubai Tourism Authority to affect change and make careers in the UAE. But Paul warned: “In approaching the government we have got to be very clear on what you want. Working with temporary staff is very convenient for filling in gaps but its not allowed here.
“We do need to start working as an industry to lobby government, to keep staff motivated we have to give them flexibility. The young don’t want full time work as they are educating at the same time.”
Uwe added: “We need to do more training if we want to attract young people. We have no problem getting the numbers but its the quality; here there are very few schools. The government could help but the biggest challenge is that there are very few Emiratis in the system so the government won’t put money in programs. The immediate issue is with causal work as there is not enough available and its poor quality.”