Hospitality Business Magazine

Hospitality Business Leaders Forum 2023 # 2: – Mayor of Auckland Wayne Brown

Bring back hospitality

By Mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to the Hospitality Business magazine Leader’s Forum. Hospitality is my third biggest spend, after taxes and rates, and I have investments in this industry, so I’m probably a good person to listen to.

Studies have shown that 68% of all lost business results from the indifferent, uncaring attitudes of employees toward customers.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve entered a restaurant and stood there, being ignored by staff that don’t appear to be busy or told that a half-empty dining room is fully booked. It’s almost a weekly occurrence.

We need to put the hospitality back in this industry.

Every customer who comes through the door is an opportunity for repeat business – they’re going to spend more, more often, and promote your business to others. Where’s the friendly, generous reception for your customers, and your staff?

Staffing is a real problem, but the industry’s skills gap – compounded by COVID-19, closed international borders, and fewer graduates from hospitality and tourism schools – can’t be solved through immigration alone.

My view is, if you want something done properly, you might have to do it yourself.

In a survey of 396 hospitality workers, Voices from the Front Line, 81% stated they received no training in their jobs. If you want to keep people, you have to train them and pay them. If you pay the least, you’re going to lose people to your competitors eventually.

It’s important to understand the industry you’re in, and your business has to be competitive. Know your customers and your competitors, and offer superior quality, superior value, or something different – and don’t stand still.

Plenty of people changed their business model or product offering during COVID-19 and continued to trade well. It’s pretty simple, but it’s never easy, and I applaud those of you whose businesses have emerged stronger and competitive. There is something to be learned here.

If we look at Auckland’s inner-city, a recent residents’ survey shows the main reason people like living in the city centre is access to shops and restaurants (63%), and the main reason to dislike living in the city centre is that people do not feel safe (45%).

Safety issues, anti-social behaviour, violence, and crime have had a real impact on retail and hospitality post-COVID, and all agencies must work together effectively with businesses to address these problems.

As an interim solution, I want to see more police on the streets, and I urge business associations like Heart of the City to spend any excess funds on regular security patrols. It’s free to be a member of your local business association because they’re funded by a targeted rate on local business ratepayers, so make sure you join.

Spending money on security is a better bet than spending money on events to attract customers in the current environment, because they won’t stick around or come back if they don’t feel safe.

We also need to think about long-term practical measures to bring people back to inner-city Auckland, like making it easier to convert empty office spaces into much-needed residential housing.

More people mean busier, safer streets, and thriving businesses.