August 8, 2022

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I’ve booked a night away. ith restrictions relaxed so dramatically, this one feels special. I...

I’ve booked a night away.
ith restrictions relaxed so dramatically, this one feels special. I want us to eat well, rest up, be entertained and enjoy great service.
Something like paradise, basically.
I’ll also need to manage my expectations. When I called to book, an under-pressure staff member needed a half-hour to call me back.
Something similar happened the next day, when we visited a local café. Hot sandwich orders would take around 30 minutes, we were told, “because only one chef is on”.
After two years of stress, we all want to treat ourselves. We’ll pay well for meals, drinks and breaks, and rightly expect to be looked after. We’ll make magical memories.
But we are not going back to a hospitality industry equipped and staffed like it was in 2019.
We’re also going to encounter some inexperienced staff, order mix-ups, unavailable items, frustrating waits and price rises. And we should not act like entitled jerks. We should play our part in a new pandemic of patience and kindness.
Here’s why.
Right now, hospitality is leaping from a frying pan into a fire.
There was elation at the easing of restrictions, but inflation, energy costs and supply issues are piling pressure on prices, and retaining staff is an emergency.
Forty two per cent of hospitality workers on the PUP have not returned to pre-pandemic employers, new Fáilte Ireland research shows. Absences due to Covid are ongoing, and the industry has some 40,000 job vacancies.
Right now, things are quiet in off-season. As pandemic supports fall away and holiday business picks up, however, these problems will become more visible. Some places will close. Others will operate reduced hours or services.
If our hotels and restaurants can’t attract and retain the best people, the customer experience will suffer for home holidaymakers and overseas visitors alike. Ireland’s tourism recovery will be hamstrung, and that affects us all.
Clearly, as punters, there’s little we can do about energy costs or job security and unsocial hours for staff. But there’s a lot we can do about another issue Fáilte Ireland cites as a negative experienced by hospitality staff — “condescending treatment by customers”.
So this year, think before that rant or kneejerk reaction. If your mains are a little late, or there’s an error on the bill, take a breath. Look around. Consider the business that has opened and closed over two years, and spent thousands of euro on health protocols.
Communicate, but be kind. Think of that over-stretched chef, or the teen waiting your table. They are under pressure, on a type of frontline, in a pandemic. They are also the next generation of the Ceád Míle Fáilte, and if Ireland is to be a desirable place to visit, we need the best of them to stick around.
Think of the people behind the masks. If you experience bad service or rip-offs, by all means complain. But remember to give positive feedback, too.
Fáilte Ireland is planning a tourism careers strategy, but Ireland needs to depend on the kindness of staycationers, too. I’m packing that thought for my night away.

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