Recently our CEO, Marlowe Bennett was invited to speak as Guest of Honour at Kenvale's Annual Winefest. There to address industry as well as aspiring hospitality graduates with his unique journey, we were also fortunate to pick up an unexpected award.
It's not often we win something, however last week we were excited to pick up "Industry Partner of the Year" award from our education partner, Kenvale College.
Our CEO, Marlowe was invited to address the students participating in the event, which since 1994, has provided an opportunity for students to showcase the skills and knowledge they have acquired at Kenvale College. Hospitality, Event Management and Commercial Cookery students combine their talents to promote regional NSW wines, matched with cocktail food at their themed stalls.
Prior to snapping the award, which was a complete surprise to our committed team, Marlowe addressed the students participating with a brief history of his unique journey in the hospitality industry and how we view success in hospitality may be measured by determination, a lot of patience and most importantly, positive employment experiences.
Here is a transcript of the speech if you weren't able to attend.
"Tonight, I wanted to share my unique story with you, its one that I’ve been reflecting on lately. About how I have been fortunate enough to be where I am today and how the positive experiences I had growing up in the industry can provide real opportunities for success in hospitality.
Starting out at the age of 16 or 17 working in McDonald's just around the corner from here, at Circular Quay, to be honest, I just didn’t see myself in a hospitality career. Mainly because I couldn’t see or understand what a career “looked” like at that age.
I had friends from school that were purely focused on going straight to university and their direction in life was very different to mine.
I wanted to work, earn money, gain valuable skills and to generally see where any opportunities might take me.
Anyway, so I gave it a go. As most of you know, McDonald's is a great start. It really conditions young workers in process, efficiency and customer service. Over the 12 months, I was there, the experience was generally positive and professional, and half-priced McDonalds at 17 is a probably one of the best employment benefits you could wish for at that age.
Once I turned 18. I was then introduced to a summer job at Doyles at Watsons Bay, working on the floor, running drinks and food and eventually I was given a chance to run a section.
On our breaks or after work, we would often cool off and swim at Camp Cove. When we were working, we’d head back for briefing and get back into it.
This was a busy and fast paced restaurant not without its challenges, however - overall it was a positive and professional environment for an 18-year-old to gain experience and further conditioning in service, efficiency and working with different styles of management and customers.
It was a great time of my life.
I invited people to work there, and I also made new friends. Before long, we had this group of people, around 15-20 from all ages who just got along and had a lot of fun working. Again, it was a positive and professional employment experience for me and the others that worked there.
Now, all good things must come to an end and to pave the way for more great things.
I then landed an interview at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Double Bay as a banquet waiter.
Keeping in mind I only had a few years of FOH technical experience under my belt, however, and unbeknown to me, I also possessed a few positive personality traits or soft skills, which were highly regarded for this business and which I had likely picked up from my previous two casual roles. I was hired based on these soft skills and progressed through to my first induction and onboarding journey with a business.
Brand alignment, inclusion, professional process. All these little details were something I had never experienced before and I was a part of something. I was made to feel like my work was worthwhile to the values of the business itself.
That I could make a difference and to a young, entry-level FOH worker, it was a very powerful process to be a part of.
These three initial employment experiences provided me with a new type of feeling about work or being employed.
A great feeling.
I felt INDEPENDENCE for the first time and I felt CONFIDENT and that I was TRUSTED to make decisions.
The reason I felt this way was that I was actually being coached and mentored by this business and its appointed managers on the front line and with the support of the HR department.
I was treated a certain way, everyone was treated this way.
It was a system, and it was a best practice system for employment, set up for engagement and retention of their greatest asset, their people.
Now, while the considerations between a business such as the Ritz-Carlton and most hospitality operators today are challenging to compare, it is possible to adopt best practice employment principles to inspire, grow and lead our culinary and events workers of tomorrow.
Now, to complete MY unique story, I need to be realistic here and we must shed light on the experiences that we have all had, that weren't so positive.
Following my positive experiences, I then found myself working in environments that were damaging to my positive perception of hospitality as a career and which began to reduce the great feeling I had when going to work to a feeling of “ is it worth it” or "why am I doing this” and even “ perhaps my parents were right, this isn’t a real job, with real career prospects”
Although I had a thick skin and was constantly reminding me to not take things personally, it was more that I could no longer align myself with businesses that acted this way.
I couldn’t represent them as my
This feeling I had is how I envision many of the young and capable workers in our industry feel and why we as an industry are struggling with the shortage of people interested in taking up a career in hospitality.
It's these negative employment experiences which affect our ability to retain great talent.
I am a product of this outcome and ended up leaving the industry based on these negative experiences.
I searched for other opportunities for two years and I couldn't quite find what I was looking for. I was continuing to practice the skills I had learnt which were useful, however - it really didn’t give me the same buzz that working in hospitality and creating memorable experiences for others made me feel.
And it is wasn't until I was exposed to one particular hospitality operator who changed my perception, through an experience as a guest that made me reconsider my journey.
Jobs and careers in hospitality, whether they are front of house, events or culinary are real jobs with very achievable and successful outcomes.
They may begin in service at McDonald's or washing dishes in a small restaurant, but they are just the start of a unique and successful career journey.
By 2020, the forecasted shortfall of skilled and engaged candidates for roles across the country is expected to be more than 123,000 people.
In response to this, it's my mission to inspire 100,000 people into hospitality jobs over the next three years.
Yes, these are BIG numbers.
I can't do this alone, and it's going to need the collective support of many people and other best practice operators to reach this target.
In essence, it's simple. We must provide positive employment experiences for our workforce.
In reality its a challenge, however - the tools and knowledge are available and its what we do very well at BENCHMARQUE.
From looking around the room tonight, I see aspirational talent looking to find their professional calling, and I also see business owners who are disheartened or challenged by the current state of our industry. But it's up to us as today’s leaders to evolve and support tomorrows champions.
If you're an owner-operator or manager, consider where you started, what you needed from an employer and remember that we all need to start somewhere.
We need to lead by example and provide the same levels of service to our workforce and employees as we provide to our guests. After all, we are in the business of service.
If you are a culinary or events student here tonight, don't give up. In the next 3 years, Australian operators will be looking to hire well over 100,000 people for skills-based roles in the industry.
You are in demand and with this demand, comes significant opportunity in this field. Please don’t forget that. Stick at your passion, if possible - take the time to travel overseas and work with these skills and look for someone that inspires you in your field and don’t be afraid to reach out to them and let them know.
Continue what you love doing and spend the time to interview and meet with employers that provide these positive experiences.
Find out what they do differently, talk to people that already work there and don’t settle.
This is my unique story...
Your efforts today and the investment in opportunities Kenvale may provide, will allow you to create your very own unique and successful journey like I have shared with you today.
Thank you and good luck tonight to all the students"
Articles published by us are intended to inspire 100,000 people to join the hospitality industry before 2020. We produce content to support professional growth opportunities while providing hospitality operators valuable guidance and solutions to help lead their venues through the skills challenges expected across the hospitality and events industries both in Australia and abroad. Ask us how you can help the industry achieve this target.