From Servers to Project Managers: How the Takeout Evolution Fosters Transferable Skills in Hospitality Staff
From food courts to large restaurant chains, the sterile effect of continuous nationwide lockdowns has been felt by the entire hospitality industry. At the beginning of March 2020, many restaurants were forced to pivot from in-house dining to takeout service within the short span of a few weeks.
In the business world, dramatically changing a revenue model requires months of planning, project management, working capital and supply chain management. However, the entire hospitality industry was able to execute this task with significantly less time, resources and presumably, fewer Zoom calls and PowerBI decks. If that is not resilience and success from the school of hard knocks, I don’t know what is.
“My [pre-lockdown] role as a server included hosting, bartending, serving, bussing, as well the occasional washing of dishes if needed,” recalls Sukiyaki House (Calgary, AB) employee Kalie Yeung. “When only takeout was permitted, my responsibilities [changed to] punching in online orders, packaging, and then delivering. We did not have an online ordering platform prior to this, people typically just called the restaurant and placed an order.”
Over the past two years, many front-of-house staff have honed additional skills such as order management, app troubleshooting and social media marketing. Some have even taken part in sourcing takeout packaging, launching online marketing campaigns, branding chef kits and conceptualizing to-go cocktail pairings – similar to functions executed by professional project and marketing managers.
“Since we did not have much control over the customer’s experience after they left the restaurant, we really had to put in the extra effort to make their takeout experience as positive as possible,” explains Kalie.
In talking to other industry professionals, it was mentioned that “a challenge was finding containers that held the food hotter for longer and finding ones that were also nice quality.”
“It was really important to us that our takeout menu stayed on-brand and this now included our packaging,” Sukiyaki House Restaurant Manager Judith Kwong elaborates. “From installing new POS for takeout to branding cocktails, everyone had to learn new skills. Our team pitched in with ideas and helped us execute the transition smoothly.”
Recently named by Avenue Magazine as one of 2022’s Best Restaurants in Calgary, Sukiyaki House transitioned from providing 10-15% takeout to 100% takeout during the Alberta lockdown in 2020/2021.
In a post-lockdown world, hiring managers should no longer write off post-pandemic restaurant employees as candidates with “no business experience” as the past two years have truly developed a wealth of new and transferable skills in hospitality staff.