From the Frontlines: A Conversation with Colin Markey on Restaurant Demand and the Race for Talent

post-covid restaurant supply and demand

Welcome back to From the Frontlines! In this series, Harri highlights members of our team who are up to big things and have big insights into the hospitality industry. This week we chat with Colin Markey, a Senior Account Executive here at Harri. In this episode, we discuss restaurant demand in a post-Covid world and the race for talent.

Thanks for joining us today! Do you think Covid has permanently impacted consumer demand for seated dining?

Although Covid has completely transformed the way we eat at restaurants, customer demand for indoor and outdoor seated dining is very much still there. We just need to be able to supply it. Restaurant operators have had to do more with less, but there’s a tangible endpoint in sight with the vaccine.

All roads lead to hiring. 10-20% of the industry has unfortunately shut down due to the pandemic, but that’s opened up some great opportunities for businesses that have survived to expand operations and hopefully dip into those open talent pools.

It’s great to focus on good news during these tough times! Why is hiring a strategic focus when restaurants might be trying to cut back on costs?

I like to use Kona Grill as an example. A year ago, delivery wasn’t a big part of their businesses. When dining capacity limits hit, they doubled down on delivery to make up for a lack of restaurant orders, which resulted in unexpectedly high-profit margins.

But it’s not that easy. Businesses need labor and they need A-players, star employees to provide excellent service on both the in-person and the delivery fronts. Once dining capacity limits are removed, restaurants will need to accommodate dining rooms and takeout alongside increased delivery. This is especially true for fine dining restaurants that put a huge emphasis on the highest-quality experience. We’ll see huge hiring sprees to accommodate those needs.

That makes a lot of sense! Do you think we’ll see stronger tech adoption to fuel those hiring strategies?

Without a doubt. Hospitality businesses will need to be incredibly competitive even before they get the green light to open at full capacity. It’s about moving quickly rather than being reactive. 

One major shift I’m seeing is that restaurants are moving away from third-party delivery and using their own drivers. They’ll need help scheduling and deploying that labor, especially when seated dining ramps back up. And pent up consumer demand says it will.

1 in 5 hospitality professionals no longer works in hospitality thanks to the pandemic. Will they come back? The hope is yes. But restaurants will need to go the extra mile in attracting talent, instilling confidence in their brand, and quickly hiring star performers. Talent sourcing and ATS to create a great customer experience will play a huge role in the success of those strategies.

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