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How Australian Venue Co and Mr Yum use tech to employ more young Aussies

Australia, June 2021

Australia’s hospitality industry is undergoing a staff shortage crisis.

The closure of international borders, an exodus of international workers and experienced staff leaving the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has left Australia’s world-renowned hospitality industry with thousands of vacant positions for chefs, wait staff, kitchen hands and venue managers.

But Australian Venue Company is turning this current crisis into opportunities for young Australians to get their start in the industry, harnessing technology to help employ novice workers and train them with the skills needed for a successful hospitality career.

The company has taken on at least 200 staff new to hospitality this year across its venues. This is in addition to more than 300 apprenticeships starting this year, with the company currently adding 30 new apprentices a month - a rate 10 times higher than the company’s average.

These beginners - called Bamboo staff in the company  - receive pre-job training to learn such skills as pre-service bar and dining room set up, tray carrying, three-plate carrying, beer pouring and till training.

Bamboo staff start as “glassies” - those who pick up empty glasses in the venue - food runners and floor staff. All traineeships are work-based, meaning they earn income from day one. 

Australian Venue Company CEO Paul Waterson says the company has been able to employ people with little or no experience due to the group-wide implementation of Mr Yum, a mobile ordering and payment system. 

With Mr Yum, patrons scan a QR code at their table to order and pay for meals and drinks, which can be delivered by new staff, leaving experienced staff free to focus on making cocktails, pouring beers and providing a superior customer experience.

“Mr Yum’s been great for us for a couple of reasons. First of all, employees can hit the ground running from their first shift, they can start to get used to the pace of working in a pub, and how it works and they can operate from day one. And then in time they can learn more about the venue and become more integrated,” he says.

Waterson says Mr Yum has allowed the company to segment its workforce, enabling experienced bartenders and floor staff to focus on service while beginners run food and drinks and clear tables. He says a misconception about mobile ordering and payment systems is that they are impersonal.

“I find it’s the contrary. It frees up staff to have more verbal interactions with the patrons, to go back and do the second and third table check, to answer any questions about the menu while the customers are perusing it on their phone. 

“In my mind, you don’t use Mr Yum to reduce labour costs, you use it to enhance patron experience and add value.”

Mr Yum CEO and Co-founder Kim Teo says QR code mobile ordering is a key development for the hospitality industry that delivers a superior customer experience.

“Mr Yum works closely with our venue partners to help them not only survive, but thrive, in these challenging times for the hospitality industry. Anything we can do to encourage the next generation of hospo stars to join the industry will ensure Australia’s world-class restaurants and bars, cafes and pubs, will continue to shine in the years ahead,” she says.

Having previously worked in retail, Demi Van Der Host, 25, started as a food and beverage runner at The Duke of Wellington in March.

“Every job I applied for wanted people with experience, and I never heard back from anybody. When I saw the opportunity to apply for Bamboo, I took it. It’s an easy way to get your foot in the door, and it was great they provided the training I needed. They were very fast at getting me the job as soon as I finished the training, and management at The Duke have been really helpful with the transition. Overall, the whole experience has been wonderful.”

Waterson says there’s never been a better time to consider a hospitality career. 

“The hairy-chest alpha male attitudes of the kitchen have gone, which is a positive, it’s great. People are starting to discover you can have your lifestyle and creative flair and you can have the best of both worlds. People can have a lifestyle, can have a family and flexibility,” he says.

“It’s probably the first time in a generation you might be able to say that for hospitality.”