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Hospitality worker says it’s time to change attitudes amid staff shortage


Hospitality workers are calling for a rethink of the industry to improve career longevity and the attitudes of customers as the staff shortage continues to reshape employer and employee expectations.

Julia Antonetti, 26, has been in the industry for eight years and, despite a move into full-time tourism work, she keeps her foot in the kitchen door with a couple of hospitality shifts every week.

“I think for a lot of people in the industry it is their career … not just a uni job,” she said.

Ms Antonetti says the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions has given the industry opportunities to rethink how it attracts and retains workers.

“There’s a huge opportunity to rebuild … with long-term growth opportunities and really change the way people perceive working across the whole hospitality industry,” she said.

“I would like to see more professional development in the industry, because historically a lot of the training has been on the job and it’s not formal.”

In her day job as a project officer with Ballarat Regional Tourism, Ms Antonetti started a program called Hospo Heroes, which involved a series of training days offered by businesses in the area.

“The Hospo Heroes program really wanted to … help provide professional development opportunities,” she said.

Ms Antonetti said the aim was to build industry connections at the same time as improving workers’ skills.

“Whilst you might start out as a dishie or a waiter, you just don’t know where you might end up,” she said.

The program was funded as part of a Victorian government initiative.

A smiling man standing in front of some wine barrels.
Matthew Harris wants to encourage people to pursue hospitality as a career.(ABC Ballarat: Rio Davis)

Boss backs push

Ms Antonetti’s boss, Matthew Harris, who is the co-owner of Ballarat wine bar, Mitchell Harris, has also been trying to promote a more professional approach to hospitality service.

“For us, it is giving not just kids, but all our staff the opportunity to thrive and gain new skills,” he said.

“Whether that ultimately leads them away from us — that’s the nature of the industry at the moment.”

Mr Harris says some people do treat the job as casual or seasonal, but others find themselves surprised by the joy they find.

“Nothing makes us prouder than seeing young people coming through the doors, looking for part-time work, not necessarily wanting a career but falling in love with what is great about this industry,” he said.

Mr Harris says older people are also changing the face of the hospitality industry, bringing higher standards and attention to detail to service.

“We’d certainly like to see more mature-age people,” he said.

“They bring a whole lot of experience and knowledge and they’ve often been customers in hospitality venues for a long time and they often know how guests like to be treated.”


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