The solution for staff shortage lies abroad

This article has been translated from Dutch to English and is originally written and posted by Foodbrigade. Scroll down for the original link

The solution for staff shortage in the hospitality sector lies abroad.

Filling the staff shortage by looking across the border. This is the way Merijn Corneel Koops wants to let the hospitality sector flourish. With his company The Work Embassy, he brings talents from Europe to the Netherlands.

Name: Merijn Corneel Koops (25)
Company: The Work Embassy
In business since: February 2018

Since his graduation project, Merijn researched the staff shortage and found the solution for it. After gaining experience as a cook abroad, he decided to execute his solution: The Work
Embassy. A gap in the hospitality sector filled by his company. “I saw a lot of talent abroad looking for new challenges. At the same time, the Dutch hospitality sector was craving new personnel, without looking across the border.”

How serious is the staff shortage in the hospitality sector in your eyes?

“Very serious. A few businesses had to close their doors or had to close one day a week. Pitiful, but a logical cause-effect.  Every day a lot of new restaurants and cafés open their doors, people have more to spend and the social life moves more outside. Also, the average millennial wants to go out for dinner more often. Alongside this development, the supply of people who want to work in the hospitality sector does not grow. Last year, the same amount of people graduated in the hospitality sector as in the years before. Clearly, the profession has not become less popular.”

What can entrepreneurs do themselves?

“Invest in staff preservation instead of new personnel. Nowadays hospitality personnel can get a job everywhere, so as an entrepreneur you have to make sure your staff does not leave to other businesses. Create good terms of employment. An occasional social party or a drink with everyone. Also giving them the freedom to decide for themselves how they organise their work. A five-day workweek is not something that appeals to millennials, they want more freedom. For example an alternating work schedule with a colleague. One four days, the other three days. You will need an extra colleague to fill in those seven days anyway, so why not this way?”

What else do you advise to entrepreneurs?

“Do not forget your social media channels. As a restaurant you can become a brand for your guests, with that in mind, your employees can become your ambassadors. They can show the guests that they are proud to work for your restaurant. Present your staff on your Facebook and Instagram page. Their enthusiasm is contagious.”

How is The Work Embassy the answer on personnel shortage?

“Restaurant owners often don’t have the time to be a recruiter or marketer besides their work. They realise that often their candidates are no longer looking on traditional job boards. So how are you going to get new staff then? With The Work Embassy, I recruit candidates from across Europe through social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. I notice that many hospitality entrepreneurs haven’t considered the option to search across the border. Some even think it is too exciting because of its unfamiliarity. Besides the language and other cultural differences, I do not see much difference between a foreign candidate and a Dutch one. Both have a big passion for the hospitality industry. What I do for a hospitality entrepreneur is the following: I select, facilitate, have conversations, arrange transport, help find accommodation, arrange a bike and so on. The only thing an entrepreneur has to do is familiarise the candidate on the work floor.”

What characterises the candidates who respond to your inquiry?

“Most applicants already have a job and are looking for a new experience abroad. For my graduation thesis, I did research on the countries with the highest unemployment rate. At first, I expected that the unemployed people would apply, but that was not the case. The ten candidates I’ve placed where all looking for a new challenge, preferably abroad. This does not mean that some of them come to the Netherlands temporarily. There is an Italian cook who wants to have his girlfriend to come over and another candidate is busy with getting an official citizenship. This is all very satisfactory to see.”

What is it that you are most proud of?

“That a real community has emerged. I have now brought ten talents to the Netherlands from all over Europe. From Hungary and Romania to Cyprus, Portugal and Italy. Eight chefs and two waitresses. All of them are in a Whatsapp group, in which all sorts of things are shared. From the first time, someone is in their new kitchen to a delicious piece of meat prepared by someone. The beauty of it all is that they regularly meet to have a drink, without me organising any of it.”

What is your biggest learning point so far?

“A candidate who cancelled at the last minute. Everything was already paid for, which was very annoying. Especially because I had no back-up. What I have learned from that is to always have a backup plan. In other words: I do not reject other candidates before I and the hospitality entrepreneur think that we have a match. Only when a candidate is actually working in the restaurant, then I will thank the others for their interest.”

Whom do you learn the most from?

“From my business coach Louise Ross. She helped me to find a way in all the jumble of running a business, something I had no experience with. She taught me to ‘go’. It sounds very logical, but it is quite difficult. With a lot of things, you think it over and over and you get stuck on the thinking part. I had to take a leap, get in contact with foreign cookery educations and set up advertisements. One step at a time. That was something which helped me tremendously.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I have been working on it for a short time and envision expanding with The Work Embassy. Within The Work Embassy that has already happened. I receive support from Jort Slangen and Leonardo Claasen. Together we now mainly focus on Utrecht and envision to help all hospitality entrepreneurs in the Netherlands in the future. Besides Holland, we also have contact with entrepreneurs in Belgium, who also suffer from a shortage in personnel. Who knows what will flourish out of that. Also finding abroad opportunities for Dutch personnel would be awesome. I think that together we can learn a lot from each other.”