With the consensus that Jamaicans are eating out more, food-industry players are calling for more training for potential workers.
Speaking during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held yesterday on the food industry, Gloria Palomino, who operates The Gap and The Grog Shoppe, called for more training, even for staff who come to her with experience.
"They still need a lot of training. We do that almost every single Monday morning to see where they are," said Palomino. "But it is so difficult to find good staff. I know HEART, for example, trains a lot of people in the industry but I don't think it's enough. They come sometimes with an attitude and then you have to break them down, but it's a constant challenge."
Veteran caterer and fellow restaurateur Jacqui Tyson felt many received training, but there was a lack of dialogue between teaching institutions and the restaurant community in terms of an internship programme. Tyson said the institutions were not seeing the graduates "on site", thus facilitating opportunities for feedback on performance.
"There's not a strong enough linkage there, so you have a flood of people and I have found that I now have to have a quality assurance officer inside, where the only thing she concentrates on is internal training and service," she said.
Tyson felt the food industry was one of the fastest-growing employment sectors.
"People must eat," she said, noting that recently she placed an ad for 10 employees and got more than 500 applicants.
More work experience needed
Everton Baker, chief public health inspector for Kingston and St Andrew, noted the department issues 25,000 food handler's permits per annum, perhaps an indication of the industry's popularity. But in looking to take on staff, Tyson and Palomino agreed more work experience and formal training would give potential employees an edge; even the basics are crucial.
"You must have maths and English because you can't cook if you can't work out the logistics. So it's no longer enough just to be a 'good cook'. And if you can't read and write, you can't understand all the food and health restrictions and they are very important because the worse thing for you is to have a client who says they ate and got sick," said Tyson.
She also pointed out that people within the industry don't give workers their "professional status".
"There are various positions within the industry. All those jobs have a title and with that title comes a pay scale. I think people like us (restaurateurs) should respect the pay scale and pay the people."
She said this would keep worker motivation and professional level of service high.