Skilled or unskilled, that is the question

Many hospitality businesses are struggling to roster enough staff to be able to trade at full capacity.

So, what are your options for returning to being fully staffed?

If you’re looking to fill non-leadership roles – cooks, food runners, bartenders, baristas, kitchenhands, waiters etc., the debate I often have with clients is whether they can take on unskilled new hires for these positions instead of looking for staff who have already received some training and have some previous experience.

The argument often goes ‘I can’t afford to take on green staff. I need people to hit the ground running’. Well, after the last 2 years, where are you going to find these well-trained workers? Many of these non-leadership level positions were made redundant or staff were stood down to reduce outgoings during the pandemic. Many stopped considering hospitality as a viable employment option during this time as it just seemed too risky. Add in unemployment rates at almost 50-year lows and uncertainty regarding the return of international students (who used to fill many of these positions), and there just aren’t enough skilled staff available.

If this isn’t enough to sway you towards hiring unskilled new team members for these roles, consider the following:

  • A new hire who hasn’t done the job before, is easier to train than someone who has. Why? Because with no previous experience to refer to, how you train them is the only way they will know. Consider staff who come into your teams with previous experience. There’s always an adjustment period while you try to overlay your specific way of doing the job. This requires consistent effort from your team leaders, and if not done correctly, leads to inconsistencies in product and service delivery that will harm your business.


  • Anyone with the skills you’re looking for will be asking a premium. Those without any experience are more likely to be comfortable starting on the entry level award rate.


  • There is a backlog of young people who haven’t been able to leave the house and enjoy the usual employment rights of passage that used to provide a good supply of new entrants to the hospitality industry. If they’re not encouraged back into hospitality as a viable, enjoyable, positive work and life experience opportunity, are we going to find our next generation of leaders?

You don’t really have another option.  Maybe your internal recruitment strategies aren’t geared towards identifying the right kind of younger, inexperienced staff who are positive towards work and learning and development? Maybe you need to review your training and development systems? Maybe your leadership approach needs a readjustment towards a default policy of ‘grow our own experienced staff wherever possible’? If you’d like to discuss how we can assist you to head in this direction, get in touch.

Ben Walter