By Len Panaggio
I am writing this column in early March and the forecast is for a very cold weekend. I really can’t complain, this past winter was pretty mild compared to a few years ago and the change of season is ahead.
As I travel throughout the state from venue to venue, I am encouraged by the positive feedback I’m hearing from staff about business; there certainly is an air of optimism! One bartender in a busy Newport restaurant said to me last week, “it hasn’t stopped!” Well, we are all looking forward to spring and summer and the opportunities that come with those busy seasons. The resort communities will enjoy their usual May-October burst; the cities will be busy through mid-June, picking up again in September.
Now is time to take stock of everything going on inside and outside of your property. Besides your physical operations, is your staff ready? Are they trained? Have they all taken all of the mandated courses? Is your management team in place and ready to roll? By far, the most important resource in your business is the human resource; it needs to be taken care of, nurtured and allowed to flourish. If you don’t heed the needs of your staff, it could spell disaster when you least expect it.
In my time running restaurants and now consulting, I put a premium on two-way staff meetings to hear the thoughts and concerns of personnel and improve day-to-day operations to create a workplace that is conducive to maximizing their earnings and thus your earnings! Buy-in from staff is key, especially with today’s millennials. They want to be heard and quite frankly they should be. They are in the trenches, they know what is broken and they expect management/ownership to fix it.
Outside of your business, there are some storm clouds brewing. While the State’s Commerce Department touts the virtues of the hospitality industry, there are some legislators in the state house that seem hell-bent on destroying it, perhaps unwittingly. Some of the legislation being submitted is frightening and if I was a business owner right now, I’d consider doing something else. From the wage bills, to predictive scheduling and everything in between, it is a frightening time to own a business. I fear for the well-being of our industry.
If you are reading this and are not a member of the RI Hospitality Association, you should be; they need your help. Whether it is financial support, testifying for or against bills at the state house, or attending fundraisers, membership participation is critical. All too often, too many of us take the efforts of the Association for granted and each legislative session, believe that everything will work out. Well, how would you deal with a $15.00/hour minimum wage and no tip credit? Changes to the overtime law and mandated scheduling are looming as well.
Outside your building, the business that you have worked so long and hard for, there are storm clouds gathering on the not-too-distant horizon. And your staff’s jobs will change and not for the better, but for the worse. The proponents of these bills simply do not understand our business and seem blind to the fact that artificially legislating the economy will not work. If you are not involved in this fight, it’s time to get involved. Join the RI Hospitality Association and see how you can help. At the very least, email your representatives in the house and senate and let them know what these onerous bills will do to your business.
After all, your loyal guests want you to continue providing a nationally-ranked hospitality experience for years to come. Be part of the solution this year; your livelihood and the livelihoods of your staff depend on it.
Len Panaggio’s career in food and wine spans more than three decades as an owner and as a beverage director at some of the top restaurants in Rhode Island. Currently a hospitality consultant, Len is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and has attended the Culinary Institute of America Master Sommelier program and the Sterling School of Service and Hospitality.