Tom Mitchell, MAFSI Chairman
By Tom Mitchell, MAFSI Chairman on June 13, 2022

The Foodservice industry is the apology industry right now.

I have traveled a lot in the last year, during and post-pandemic. In the US South, the damage has been limited as they were not locked down as hard or for as long. The US North was not so lucky with closed restaurants, hotels with no services, and empty streets. Canada was also hit very hard and it shows.

I arrived in Toronto this morning after a red-eye flight because my great morning flight was canceled for a lack of crews, they apologized. I arrived at my hotel at 7:00 am and was greeted by a very friendly front desk that got me into a room immediately, thank God. During check-in there were two apologies, the first was lack of staff so no service in my room, the second was there is no food because the restaurant in the hotel shut down during the lockdown and has not reopened. The exact same situation I experienced at a Chicago hotel three weeks ago.
So, I set out on foot to find breakfast, one of my favorite sports is hunting for a food gem. I stopped in at a multi-unit customer of mine and was told by an almost tearful hostess that she could not seat me even though the restaurant was only one-third full. They had limited staff in the kitchen and with the lack of servers it would be a two-hour wait to eat, she apologized. I went on with my quest and found a marvelous little breakfast place. Their internet was down so cash only, they apologized but I was seated immediately. My server was friendly and efficient I ordered and after a while, she apologized for the slowness, the place was packed. They had no butter pats, she apologized. The experience was good even with minor issues.

This experience leads me to my point, in our industry we have spent the last year apologizing for long delivery times, slow freight, lack of parts, and lack of service. On the guest panel at the FCSI conference, I was noted for saying I had become the voice of doom. That is what it feels like, day after day apologizing for a system that is broken by the pandemic.

This is not going to improve for a while so I suggest the following: let's all remember the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.

Have lots of empathy, we are all in the same boat, us, our customers, and their customers. We cannot expect the same level of service we had in 2019, there are massive labor shortages, supply issues are just starting to correct, and everyone is stretched to the limit. Treat hospitality as a two-way street, be extra kind to the front line in foodservice, if we are not, they won’t stay, and it will get worse. We rely on the foodservice industry to feed us, welcome tourists, have that special event, and to buy our products. Like all things, this will pass but it will never be the same again.

Mechanization will solve some of the labor issues, and more customer participation or sweat equity such as self-serve, self-seat, and ordering online from the table apps will help.

Remember we as MAFSI are having the same challenges, hard to find staff, high cost, more CRM apps, and less time. Let’s not apologize so much for what is not possible and get back to the pride in what we can offer. All of us, the server, the cook, the rep, and the factory. This is an industry to love, it's fallen on hard times, Let's all lift it up.
Yours in Hospitality,
Published by Tom Mitchell, MAFSI Chairman June 13, 2022
Tom Mitchell, MAFSI Chairman