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Restaurants seek Bermudians with realistic expectations

Bermudians need to be realistic about their expectations if they want to work in the hospitality industry.

That was the message from Philip Barnett, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce nightclub and restaurant division, who was speaking at a press conference held at the Chamber yesterday about the issues facing the sector in trying to hire suitably qualified Bermudian staff.

Mr Barnett was joined by Walter Simons, who owns Bouchee and the Rotisserie Grill, and Jay Correia, owner of the Swizzle Inn, who also talked about the impact on business of the moratorium on work permits put in place by former Labour Minister David Burch and extended by his successor Economy Minister Kim Wilson.

Mr Simons said that the work permit moratorium would lead to a drop in the level of services, which he had already seen in one of his restaurants, with less staff meaning less service, reflected in what the customer received.

“We still need to maintain a level of employees to run our businesses and to keep a certain level of service and standards up,” he said.

Mr Barnett said that while the hospitality industry was hiring staff, Bermudians coming into the trade needed to appreciate that the starting wage was relatively low.

He said that as a Bermudian restaurant owner he wanted to see Bermudians given a fair chance in the industry and filling more of the jobs.

But he also acknowledged the reality that the number of Bermudians in hospitality had shrunk from the days when almost every family had a member who worked in the business.

“The most important message that we want to get out there is that we are still here, we are still fighting the fight in very hard times, but we are also looking for Bermudians to be involved in the business,” he said.

Mr Barnett said that a pot washer could start on a minimum wage of $30,000 per year, which was in the middle income bracket for most of the economies in the world and was enough to cover rent, food and clothing.

“That's the realism of our economic model,” he said. “The message that we want to get across is that jobs are available but come with realistic expectations.”

He said that there were also some basic requirements for Bermudians to do the job, including overall presentation as the face of the hospitality industry, punctuality in order to get ready for the day ahead and commitment to the role.

“We are essentially a Bermudian industry,” he said. “We represent what Bermuda is and we need to make sure that we start staffing it with our own people.”

Mr Simons gave an example of a success story where one young Bermudian woman whom he hired with no experience in the trade had turned out to become one of his best employees, with a friendly manner and attitude.

He said that she was now reconsidering her career, changing from the field she graduated in to go into the industry, adding that he would always train up someone who was willing and eager to learn and had a passion for the work.

Mr Barnett said there were a number of programmes available, including apprenticeships with the Bermuda Hospitality Institute and courses at Bermuda College, that Bermudians could join to start their career in the industry.

Mr Correia said that in his two restaurants he had employed 68 Bermudians in two years, some of whom had worked out and others who hadn't, and the feedback he had got from visitors to the Island was that they wanted to see a smiling Bermudian face to welcome and serve them to the high level and standards they are accustomed to.

“We can't expect an industry overnight to become 100 percent Bermdianised,” he said.

“It is a struggle to get Bermudians but we need to make every effort to get them in and show our commitment to that.”

Seeking keen Bermudian staff: Restaurateurs (from left) Walter Simons, Philip Barnett and Jay Correia. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am (Updated March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am)

Restaurants seek Bermudians with realistic expectations

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