Lack of work ethic in young Bermudians a problem for restaurant owners

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  • The work ethic of some young Bermudians has caused concern with restaurant owners.

    The work ethic of some young Bermudians has caused concern with restaurant owners.
    ((Photo by Akil Simmons))

Waiter-server programme is hailed a success

Since November, dozens of Bermudians have come through the waiter-server programme run by Government and the Bermuda Hotel Association.
La Trattoria manager Nicky Russo said the quality of applicants from the programme had been “very good”, so much so that poaching had become a problem.
“The programme gave us four wait staff for the dining room and they were all good. One left because he got another job.”
He added: “There’s a lot of poaching, yes. When somebody gets good, other places want them.”
The brief training course gave applicants “a good feel for the job”, with graduates amenable to keep learning.
“The only problem was two had young children, and so they were working split shifts. They stayed as long as they could, and we were sad to see them go.”
Co-chairs of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce restaurant division Phil Barnett and Teresa Chatfield endorsed the programme.
Said Ms Chatfield: “Overall, it’s a success. It’s a good initiative at the right time.”
The aim of the programme, launched in November, is to replace 100 work permit waiter-server positions with local staff. Ms Chatfield estimated that 85 have so far graduated successfully.
“I’ve hired about 13,” she said. “We lost a couple, but some want to go to other places, like hotels or bigger environments.”
Ms Chatfield said there had been “a couple of problems”, but added: “You can’t expect miracles.”
Mr Barnett called the programme “an introduction to the service and hospitality industry”.
“Does it qualify people to run a station immediately to the standards of a restaurant? Absolutely not.
“Once they are placed, it’s up to the individual to work to the standards. They have to bring the right attitude.”
Mr Barnett said his restaurants had taken on “a few” graduates, and had one of “excellent” quality.
“We do get people thinking it’s going to be an easy road. But if you’re not working hard, you’re not going to get paid. A lot of the pay comes from gratuities. Unfortunately you’re not going to get a lot of money starting out. A year in, and it can be great money.”

Many young Bermudians exhibit little work ethic and are barely suitable for employment, restaurant owners believe.

They say their efforts to hire locals fail because they aren’t punctual, have no service skills and frequently don’t show up for work.

“This is the worst year I have ever had,” said one restaurateur. “Nobody in Bermuda wants to work this hard. I am trying my utmost to hire Bermudians and I’m finding it very difficult.”

The industry veteran of ten years was one of many who spoke with this newspaper on condition of anonymity.

“I came from a background that work was part of the fulfillment of life,” he said. “I don’t think you will find that now. Some of it is a Bermuda problem; some of it is that peoples’ approach to work has changed.”

The decline predated the recession but had worsened in recent years, the man added.

“The work ethic sucks, to be frank. It just isn’t there. If it’s not there how, as an employer, am I going to put it there? Teaching a work ethic to someone who is almost 30 seems like a joke. Sick leave is considered a right.”

Restaurant owner Rick Olson said about 60 percent of his local hires worked out.

He described the quality of applicants for pot-washer positions as “horrendous” but said he’d been pleasantly surprised by graduates of Government’s waiter-server programme.

Run in collaboration with the Bermuda Hotel Association, the programme takes Bermudian candidates through four weeks’ training at the Bermuda College. It was launched last November with the goal of replacing 100 work permit waiter positions with Bermudian staff.

Said Mr Olson: “They’re of a much higher calibre than I expected. There are some in the programme that are not really employable for sure, but still better than some of the people that walk off the street with no direction. If we really want to get serious, we need more intensive courses at Bermuda College and an ongoing work-study programme with private enterprise.”

Speaking generally of job applicants, he said: “I do think service skills are not there, but in a place like [my Front Street eatery] The Beach it’s not needed as much as it would be in a $50-a-plate establishment. A lot of expatriates don’t meet that standard either, so it’s not just local. I do think higher-end places need more work permits for sure, because standards are down locally. But I have no problem at all hiring Bermudians.”

The disgruntled industry veteran said he had also had some success with Bermudian staff.

“It’s just not enough,” he said. “I do the best with what I have but if Immigration said I could not bring in any more people, I would have to shut down.”

Management at a prominent local restaurant shared their experience with this newspaper, again on condition that we not publish their names.

One man said: “One good thing about the Immigration being harder with work permits is that we have actually some very talented Bermudian young people.

“A lot of them are unmotivated and immature, but we have found a few which are very good.”

Added another: “In terms of wait staff, we have not brought in any for some time. We’ve been hiring Bermudians and training them — we have to go through a lot of people.

“With the work ethic, we do have to put the rules down. If you can’t work within those rules, you can’t work. I have a challenge, especially with younger employees [but] that’s something the whole world faces.”

The group was critical of Government’s moratorium on work permits for kitchen and bar porters imposed two years ago.

According to the restaurant’s executive chef, a “good crew” of local kitchen porters had been built up at the cost of many who “didn’t stay, and who walked out the door and took things with them”.

Meanwhile, a Bermudian waitress with more than 20 years’ experience said she didn’t believe people graduating from Government’s waiter-server programme actually learned much.

“We have to train them on the job from scratch,” she said. “At first we had some calling in sick and showing up late. They’re starting to get it down. I have to talk to them about having to get to work a half-hour early.”

She said that the bottom line was: “You have got to learn how to work your tables and turn them over to make money. If you’re slow, you won’t make any money. We get $6 an hour. I can make over $1,000 a week, but if you’re not hustling, you can’t make it.”

Punctuality and attitude were common faults in applicants today, the waitress said.

“You’ve got to be friendly. There’s a lot of hours. You can be working all day without a break. They need more service skills and manners with the people they are serving.”

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Published Aug 13, 2012 at 9:12 am (Updated Aug 13, 2012 at 9:12 am)

Lack of work ethic in young Bermudians a problem for restaurant owners

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