By John Longstreet
Exhausting, grueling, trying, tough, uncertain. Pick one and it probably describes how 2020 and the first part of 2021 felt for someone in the hospitality and tourism industry. All segments and sectors were severely impacted by the pandemic and subsequent mitigation, and all struggled to survive.
But do you know what else shone through the bleak times? Grit, determination, innovation, efficiency. Restaurant and lodging operators across the board displayed endless tenacity as they pivoted to adapt to the rules of the day, time and again. These same operators — and their teams — took on the challenges presented by the pandemic and adopted new ways to generate revenue and keep their lights on.
As the mitigation lifted, new challenges have taken over. In addition to staffing shortages, restaurants and hotels are also juggling obstacles in their supply chain. This includes soaring food prices, delivery delays and supply outages. All these issues are causing our restaurant operators to rethink and adjust their menus and our hotels to reevaluate their services.
Last year, hospitality operators were struggling to keep staff on their payroll. Now that customers are resuming dining out and travel, operators are struggling to fill open positions. A role of an association is to find solutions to your members’ challenges.
In July, the PA Restaurant and Lodging Association launched a multi-media awareness campaign, “Level Up,” to let former and future employees know the opportunities that are available to them in the hospitality industry. The campaign showcases the industry’s career pathways, flexibility and growth-oriented work.
The campaign targets four main audience groups:
- First-time employees, like teenagers, students, immigrants or career changers who don’t have experience in the hospitality industry or any industry. The message to this audience is that we will train you to ‘level up’ your job skills with us.
- Gig workers who embrace shift work and flexible schedules. These messages focus on the industry’s flexibility to earn a living while they pursue other passions or education.
- Re-engage disenfranchised workers who left the industry at the height of the pandemic. Our message to this audience is that the stability and opportunities are back on track now that the mitigation has lifted and vaccines are available.
- Reassure industry veterans who have stuck with the industry all along that they are valued and there are more opportunities now than ever before to ‘level up’ through professional growth and advancement.
The campaign messaging is being delivered via paid digital and social ads, which drive clicks to the PRLA’s job board. Members and (for a limited time) non-members can post their open positions free-of-charge on the board. We’re also profiling current industry employees across social media, telling their stories of how and why they chose the hospitality industry. These stories highlight the diverse offerings and career advancement within the industry.
In addition to the labor shortages, supply-chain issues, and rising food prices, uncertainty surrounding the variants — particularly the Delta strain — and how local and state government officials will react is cause for concern. New York City recently announced a new mandate for individuals to provide proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms.
Recognizing that higher vaccination rates are our best bet for containing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, PRLA is collaborating with healthcare and community partners in Philadelphia to provide pop-up vaccination clinics to ensure hospitality industry workers and their communities have easy access to vaccinations. More information can be found at www.prla.org/vaxphilly. We are currently working to expand this program to more Pennsylvania counties.
While the mitigation may have been lifted and normal activities are resuming, the hospitality industry is still facing significant challenges. Our employees are doing their best to ensure your experience is enjoyable so remember to show grace and compassion to our teams as you dine out or stay at a hotel this summer.
These 15 months have been challenging for a multitude of reasons; however, I have never been prouder to represent this magnificent industry.
John Longstreet is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.