TL;DR – How do we know? The F&B peeps told us so!
If you think about jobs in F&B, what comes to mind? I think most people will think of two main groups – the kitchen staff and the service crew. If we think that that’s all the types of jobs that there are in F&B, then we would be wrong.
At the U Startup Series session for the F&B sector that I sat in for, I learnt that the F&B sector is undergoing some quite interesting changes. As a result of these changes, F&B establishments can’t go about business as usual. And as the way F&B establishments change, new types of jobs will be created. These jobs are to address the shortage of Singaporeans willing to work in the traditional F&B careers, improve labour productivity, and help F&B establishments continue to innovate.
Ernest Lim, the managing director of Aptsys (a POS, emenu, kiosk, loyalty system provider), told the group at the session that his company has partnered with SHATEC to teach their students data analytics. The aim is to help their students be able do more than just wait tables.
In addition to being part of the service staff, the students should be able to add value by analysing different types of data. For instance, students would be trained to look at sales data and determine which items on the menu sell well. They should then be able to use the information to procure ingredients more intelligently and efficiently as well as innovate and improve the menu.
This would provide more pathways of progress for people working in the F&B. Hopefully, this would help to improve retention rates in the F&B sector.
Social media marketeers
The owners of F&B establishment at the session also said that branding is becoming more important today. Branding is not only crucial for them reach out and win customers, it also helps them recruit and retain quality staff. And given how tech savvy people are these days, the best way to reach people is through social media.
Mr Joey Lee, founder of Tandem Collective, said that even though he doesn’t actively advertise for staff, he constantly gets people applying to work for him. He’s able to achieve this because he put in the effort to create a “cool” branding on social media.
Joey told the group that millennials want to be associated with “cool” things. That’s why any company able to brand themselves as a “cool” company would be better able to recruit millennials. This not only alleviates the issue of manpower crunch, it also helps draw in more customers. Joey said that a lot of his staff would bring their friends to eat at his shops. And no. His staff don’t get any discounts.
The other advantage of social media marketing is that it’s affordable. Joey said that he was able to spend relatively little on marketing because he rarely runs campaigns on traditional media. He found that he gets a bigger bang for the buck through social media marketing.
Other people in the group agreed with Joey. We got a sense that for an F&B company to grow, it would have to be able to run successful social media marketing campaigns.
What’s robotics got to do with F&B? A lot, because the labour crunch and push for productivity. From robot waiters to robotic arms that can fry eggs (Want sunny side up? No problem. Want an omelette? No problem too!), robots can help F&B establishment ease their labour crunch.
That is something that Mr Hui Wing Feh, Founder of Kurve Automation, a company that specialises in developing automation solutions for F&B companies, told the group. His company has helped some hotels design and install robotic arms that can fry different types of eggs at their buffet line. And these robotic arms can be programmed to prepare other food. That’s why one of Kurve’s clients eventually went on to hire someone who’s able to programme robotic arms.
Thinking out of the box, networking for better solutions
After hearing Wing Feh talk about the possibilities that technology presents, Joey expressed interest to find out more so that he can improve the productivity of his business. And I think that’s the value of networking sessions such as the U Startup Exchange Series. It brings people involved in different aspects of an industry together for them to exchange ideas. Such exchanges seem to have allowed startups to find innovative solutions to the challenges that they are facing.
Let’s hope we have more such events to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas!
NTUC U Startup was initiated by the Labour Movement in 2016 to support the thriving startup community in Singapore. It aims to connect startups to the wider NTUC’s network – unionised companies, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), U Associated professional guilds / professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), and network of freelancers and self-employed.
Some initiatives include creating platforms for startups and potential service buyers (B2B), promoting startups to NTUC members (B2C) and link PMEs to startups who are keen on carving out a career in their organisations.
What is U Startup Exchange?
This is a series of industry roundtable discussions to bring together key stakeholders (policymakers, service providers to service buyers, and unions representing the working people) to collaboratively exchange views and ideas to the impending challenges and service gaps that the industry is facing.