I Used to Teach Restaurant Staff About Vodka. Now I Teach Them About Hospitality.

Restaurant Diaries is a weekly series featuring four people working in the industry. Each week you’ll hear from one of them: farmer Kristyn Leach, wine educator Kyla Peal, line cook Peter Steckler, and bartender turned brand ambassador Jenny Feldt. Here Feldt talks about how the lack of hospitality workers is affecting her restaurant and bar partners, her role at Grey Goose, and the industry at large. Read Feldt’s previous diary entries here.

There’s a real shortage of hospitality workers right now.

It’s been an issue since the onset of COVID, but I’ve noticed it in particular these last couple of months as restaurants start to open up and are just incredibly short-staffed. In almost every market I work in or visit, I’ve seen the same problem. When the initial restaurant shutdowns pushed hospitality workers out of their jobs, many of them pivoted out of the industry altogether. I know of a lot of folks who went back to school or found jobs outside of bars and restaurants, which offered more stability or benefits. Now some of these hospitality veterans aren’t coming back. Instead, we’re finding a new set of younger staff. For restaurant managers that means training a whole new workforce on the 101s and basics of hospitality. This has shifted my day-to-day focus for our Grey Goose partners, essentially our own restaurant and bar customers.

Before, I was spending more time training restaurant and bar staff on the Grey Goose brand or the vodka category as a whole. These days I’m also providing introductory hospitality training. I’m teaching newcomers to the industry about the fundamental steps of service, like how long to wait before greeting a guest after they’ve sat down; how often to check on a table; how to understand and effectively communicate a menu, with descriptions of food and ingredients. In effect I’m providing them with the building blocks of how to create an experience for a guest. Whereas some restaurants have really intense onboarding programs for this kind of information, I’m finding that many teams are so understaffed that they just don’t have time to do this training on their own. So that’s where I come in. I’m doing training that, pre-pandemic, I never would‘ve thought to do or thought would be necessary. For example, I was recently asked to demonstrate how to present a bottle during service, which I’d never been asked to do before. But it’s a great opportunity for me to also learn what restaurants and restaurant workers really need right now and potentially dust off my own skills and services.

Photo by Jose Pereiro