Last week, SevenRooms brought its Pass The Bread panel event to Sydney to discuss diversity, equality and inclusion, and its influence in the hospitality industry.

Taking place in various cities around the world, the networking and educational series aims to address important issues facing the hospitality industry.

At Hotel Centennial in Woollahra guests had a three course dinner, hosted by SevenRooms senior community development manager Skyler Hunt and a panel of industry professionals who shared their own experiences and insights.

The panel consisted of Esca group operations manager Chris Mul’Howard, Merivale senior learning and development manager Jake Walsh, Stanley House Studios account director Regina Lee and Solotel relationship manager Ella Collins.

In a conversation about empowering your staff to understand the diverse needs of your customers, Walsh explained that the first step is building an engaged and inclusive workforce.

“For us, it starts at the recruitment process. Obviously a skilled workforce is important in hospitality, but over the last two years we have really focused on the personality of the individuals that are coming through and making sure that they fit our values. Merivale has four strict core values, but each venue has the freedom to define what those values mean to them.

“We hire through our venues, people who fit the definition of those values. We’re really in touch with the communities that surround our venues, and really focused on bringing people into our business who are passionate and show the right personality and values, rather than their skillset.”

“The more diverse the workforce you have, the more ideas are going to get brought to the table. More ideas results in more effective events and activations,” Collins added.

Beyond recruitment and representation, Walsh elaborated on the importance of educating your workforce so that they are equipped to respond to new situations.

“As soon as something happens in our world, it’s a great opportunity to educate our team. Not only our employees, but our wider reach workforce, our contractors and suppliers, the people who come and visit us day in day out, as well as our guests.

“WorldPride is a fantastic example. We felt that our workforce probably wasn’t ready to be respectful enough to the people that we were going to welcome into our venues. We took that opportunity to partner with some of the best in the business, letting that trickle through a 500-large training session and seeing the rewards throughout the year in how our team started to react to different situations in a way that is respectful, inclusive and makes us feel proud of them.”

Speaking from the perspective of a group role, Collins expanded on the discussion by sharing insights into Solotel’s approach of outsourcing training.

“In terms of training, partnerships have been the biggest tool for us. We might not have the tools internally to be able to achieve true diversity and inclusion, so externally, we really focus on partnerships. It takes some investment at a group level and it’s not cheap, but the best educational results we have seen have been through our partnerships.”

Speaking about the positive impact of diversity on workplace culture and employee happiness, Lee explained how customers can also benefit.

“I’m a big believer in taking care of your staff, and your staff will take care of the rest. If you create an environment for your staff where they can thrive and see diversity, that is going to trickle down to how your staff interact with your guests.

“Australia is so diverse, and I think it’s the responsibility of companies to really reflect that in their workforce. Even as a consumer, when there is no representation of different cultures within a workforce, I immediately lose that connection. It is human nature, to want to feel seen and represented.”

Mul’Howard spoke about his experience leveraging customer data to personalise and elevate customer experience, explaining how the intelligence provided by SevenRooms allows a venue to understand the needs and interests of customers prior to their first visit.

“Data is king, using a platform like SevenRooms allows you to collect customer data before someone even walks into your venue. What we like to do is, when somebody is using the halal widget, a dietary widget, or notifies us that they’re celebrating, we think what can we do for them today?

“We can curate that moment for somebody, and tailor that experience directly to them. We have a really diverse team who lean into their own experiences, and share what good hospitality means to them and their culture.

“With that information, we don’t just identify that a person is halal for example, we actually change our sequence of service specifically for that guest before they even arrive. We’ll do little things like removing any promotions for alcohol choices, having staff specifically point out any dishes that might contain alcohol, and even going as far as being able to provide separate cooking equipment for halal dishes.”

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