(L to R): Bruce McAdams, associate professor at the University of Guelph, Sanjay Venu, regional director of Operations, Earls Kitchen + Bar; Rebecca Gordon, manager of Anita Stewart Food Lab; and Brian Cammack, regional VP of Human Resources, Marriott Hotels of Canada.
(L to R): Bruce McAdams, associate professor at the University of Guelph, Sanjay Venu, regional director of Operations, Earls Kitchen + Bar; Rebecca Gordon, manager of Anita Stewart Food Lab; and Brian Cammack, regional VP of Human Resources, Marriott Hotels of Canada.

TORONTO — Kostuch Media Ltd. (KML) held its inaugural Top 30-Under-30 Leadership Summit: Future Forward June 13 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto. Dubbed “A Leadership Summit with a Twist,” the event brought together current leaders and tomorrow’s leaders to dialogue on the most important and pressing issues of the day.

Approximately 150 attendees gathered for a packed day of educational panels, awards presentations and networking opportunities. The day included the presentation of the Top 30-under-30 Awards of Distinction as well as the Green Awards and KML’s Tops in Hospitality Awards, followed by four panel discussions. Click here to see this year’s winners.

Re-Writing the Rules of Recruitment & Retention

The first panel of the day, Re-Writing the Rules of Recruitment & Retention, provided an update on the current labour market, explored new recruitment strategies and examined the role of leadership development in company culture. Moderated by Bruce McAdams, associate professor at the University of Guelph, the panel included Sanjay Venu, regional director of Operations, Earls Kitchen + Bar;  Rebecca Gordon, manager of Anita Stewart Food Lab; and Brian Cammack, regional VP of Human Resources, Marriott Hotels of Canada.

Fortunately, Cammack said Marriott has seen job vacancies decrease. “Things are better, but last year, we had a record number of open positions in our industry,” he said. “At the same time, we saw record low unemployment, which is tough combination. We’re still hovering at about a five per cent unemployment rate. We have to be smart about how we steal more than our fair share of the talent that’s out there.”

Venu expressed a similar sentiment. “The world is coming back to life and things cost money, so we’re starting to see people come back. The new openings are creating excitement and there’s a path forward of growth and opportunity,” he said.

In terms of new approaches to recruitment, Cammack referred to the idea building [internal] customer relationships, adding that Marriott has been focusing on “relationships with applicants or associates who want to join the organization. We have a product we’re selling, which is an employment experience, and it has to be relevant and more meaningful than ever before by taking a look at brand offerings and [flexibility] to capture talent.”

In comparison to pre-pandemic, Venu mentioned the growth of virtual recruitment and the many benefits it offers. “We’re always looking to upgrade our talent, and if you’re not in that market then you’re [missing out on new talent pools],” he said. “The use of LinkedIn Recruiter has always been around but it has become a larger part of what we do in our daily routines and impacts our day-to-day operations. Earls has a digital recruiting team and an internal recruiting team in-store.”

In her surveys and research studies with hospitality workers on the topic of recruitment, Gordon said initial conversations were largely about wages, but workers are also looking for opportunities for growth and development and a positive work culture that cares for its employees.

“When I’ve asked workers what a positive work culture looks like, they’ve said it’s being respected and being listened to by an employer, and not just being treated as one of many people in an organization. I think that’s good lesson that we can take and learn from,” she said.

The panel wrapped up with a discussion about how leaders determine culture and impact retention. Gordon said the number-1 reason why people quit their jobs is because of their manager. 

“When I’m trying to understand what it is workers are finding hard, there’s a lot of promises with no follow through and failure to share policies openly,” she said. “What makes a good leader is someone who’s willing to be transparent, willing to share policies, willing to have difficult conversations, willing to listen and willing to ask employees about what they want to feel valued and a part of the decision-making process.”

Tech Talk

The second panel, Tech Talk, delved into the latest restaurant technology trends that have helped foodservice businesses save money, streamline operations, draw customers and boost sales. Moderated by Lee Jackson, senior VP of Digital Solutions at JLL, the panel included Greg Staley, GM of E-Pro Bot; Peter Mammas, president & CEO, Foodtastic; Ben Osmow, president & CEO, Osmow’s Restaurants; and Andrew Gnoinski, head of Enterprise, Deliverect.

Osmow said POS integration has been integral to the management of his family’s restaurant business, especially since the onset of the pandemic.

“Amalgamating all the different platforms, such as DoorDash, SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, into one allows us to focus on having our restaurant and our kitchen operations run smoothly,” he said. “We don’t have to check 10 different tablets anymore to see the order, where it’s coming from and if it’s pickup or delivery. That’s helped us in a big way, and we’re always focusing on efficiency and speed of service.”

At Foodtastic, which has completed roughly 15 acquisitions in the last 36 months, Mammas said the FSRs use technology platforms for things like inventory, reservations and scheduling while QSRs are seeing an uptick in self-service kiosks. “I think the whole restaurant industry was lagging in tech, but in the last few years it has really accelerated and will continue into the future,” he said. “We have about 40 different tech solutions and opportunities between all of our brands.”

Gnoinski proceeded to talk about some off-premise trends that have impacted businesses. “Delivery is here to stay. Operators now have what can be considered two competing forces in their restaurant and they have to satisfy both. Customers expect the best from you every time and you need the repeat business from them as often as possible to continue maintaining franchisor location profitability. Deliverect really tries to simplify and standardize those processes. However, the reality is operators have to maintain the in-store customers first. They need the most and the best service from staff, both front and back of house, so whatever you can do to simplify the off-premise business to allow staff to do their best is key.”

Osmow said delivery accounts for roughly 34 per cent of total sales, while Mammas said Foodtastic’s QSR brands in general sit at about 30 per cent and the FSRs are 10 per cent. He also noted some QSR brands are focused heavily on delivery, accounting for 70 per cent of total sales.

The panel concluded with a conversation about the takeoff of robots in restaurants. In fact, E-Pro Bot has deployed approximately 24,000 robots across the globe.

“These days, robots create a WOW factor,” said Staley. “We never sell a robot to replace a person. When I sell a robot, it’s all about the ROI. The three main benefits are combatting staff shortages and enabling increased productivity; upselling menu items; and attracting more customers with free advertising generated by customers on socials, which simultaneously reduces marketing costs.”

“The robots are coming,” said Mammas. “We’re looking to test a robot in the next two years or so.”

For coverage of the afternoon sessions of the inaugural Top 30-Under-30 Leadership Summit: Future Forward, stay tuned to the Thursday edition of Hospitality Headlines.


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