Restaurant and Catering Australia: Standing and Delivering
With over 35,000 food service businesses across Australia, there’s bound to be the occasional problem or discrepancy. At first it affects an isolated area; then, gradually, others experience the same setbacks. If not for Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA), disaster would be far more common.
R&CA began as several separate and similarly named organisations. First came the Queensland association in 1947, with those of Australia’s other states not far behind. Eventually, these great minds that thought alike decided to amalgamate the groups into one larger-scale organisation in 2009.
The goal of this non-profit association is to represent the interest of employers, owners and operators of restaurants, cafes and caterers, supporting the continuous elevation of standards in this field and speaking up for its members when necessary.
“We should be able to put forth a consolidated view,” said R&CA CEO John Hart, “to make sure that we can represent our industry’s interest. It’s also important to provide thought, leadership and direction for the industry at large. We should be in a position to ascertain the nature of the environment and suggest what businesses can do to capitalise on the current and future environments.”
With their astronomical amount of members and potential members, there are undoubtedly numerous possibilities of where these efforts could be focused. Mr Hart, however, says the association’s energy is aimed directly at workforce-related matters.
“Industrial relations,” lists Mr. Hart, “training, and other areas of regulation such as superannuation taxation – those tend to be the areas where we focus our advocacy.”
One purpose of advocacy is to generate awareness of those viewpoints, gradually persuading others to agree with them. R&CA wisely utilise several forms of multimedia to do just that.
“We have a range of communication mechanisms,” said Mr. Hart, “a monthly magazine, a bi-monthly newsletter, weekly e-mails. There’s a lot of activity around trying to create awareness across a range of platforms.”
Of their workforce efforts, Mr Hart singles out the Skills Pathways Project for particular merit. The project is designed to change training programs in the food service industry, thereby raising the bar of productivity for everyone involved.
It is this sort of group mentality that has allowed the association to remain effective. By uniting competitors for a common cause, the unusual blend of building both internal and external relationships can enable all parties to thrive.
“You need a united front,” states Mr Hart. “It’s difficult when you’re dealing in a commercial sector, but you have to put that behind you and focus on what can be achieved in the industry. It’s important for businesses to put the competitive tension behind them, identify what they agree on and what can be achieved by working together.”
Also important is the training of incoming workers, which can set the tone for both present and future endeavors. Regulatory training is given the most emphasis; however, Mr. Hart says this may not be the best system.
“Regulatory training focuses on the lowest common denominator,” explains Mr. Hart. “You want an environment where you’re lifting the skillset throughout the profile of occupation.”
Sensing the potential problem, R&CA established the Certified Professional Restaurateurs program, which covers a wide variety of different skills that are bound to help any employees thrive in their job for a long time. Unfortunately, this is not the limit to the complications befalling the food service industry in Australia.
“We’ve been through a period of market re-regulation that’s unprecedented around the world,” says Mr Hart. “Our reform process, in terms of workplace relation, is certainly going to be the national priority. There’s a lot of activity going on with the productivity commission inquiry and the view of the wards; this is the major issue nationally this year.”
The reform process, a bid to rework national labor policies, currently probing many Australian industries, presents the tallest hurdle to clear. R&CA hopes to ensure the food service industry reaps the rewards; it is currently their top priority.
“My goal,” proclaims Mr Hart, “is to make sure the view is central to the consideration in the reform processes that’ll go on throughout this year, and for us to heavily influence these process.”
Indeed, influence is the name of the game, and maybe even the deciding factor when all is said and done.
“Our industry’s growing very strongly,” says Mr. Hart. “We are no doubt the star performer of the retail market with very strong growth, and the restaurant and catering sectors are enabling that growth. We expect this will enable us to have the influence we need to make things better for our members.”