February 6, 2019 |
On my way to Manila to recruit team members for the six projects we have in Saudi Arabia, I was bored and could not sleep. I started to reflect on a conversation with one of our clients regarding the honesty and transparency of job applicants.
My friend Yousef and I had hired a supervisor to help manage his soon-to-open Chop’t Salad restaurant in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. I was very impressed with the candidate’s interview – so much so that I told my friend not to lose him. We agreed to the applicant’s terms and hired him at his asking salary.
The newly hired supervisor duly arrived on his first day of employment and was highly professional during the orientation and food safety training that I was conducting. His behavior made me believe that I had made the right decision to hire him and told my client (Yousef) to expect to see him overseeing all branch operations soon. And then.. the next day, he did not show up to work. We called, and he explained that he had had an accident and sprained his ankle. We were very sympathetic and wished him a quick recovery. But we never saw him again, and soon realized that he wasn’t going to return.
This behavior puzzled me. Why would someone who came across as very professional suddenly start to act this way? Yousef knew his last employer and called him, only to find out that this man had never been a supervisor or made the money he claimed to have made, and had never managed the café as he had stated on his CV. He was a barista and made 40% less than he claimed to have been.
Yousef called me in shock; he felt cheated, and was annoyed for not having verified the information on the CV. But after all, who does? No employer I know bothers to call a reference on a potential hire’s CV. Why, you ask? Because we all believe that the phone numbers provided, and the references given, are of the candidates’ friends. I strongly believe that this region does not have a credible background check system.
That was the end of the first story.
Soon after, I was reading an article about how a consultancy company landed a contract to manage the operations of all the F&B locations for a large regional player. I was impressed and was curious to see what qualified this company to take on such task – that no doubt had a big sum attached to it.
I started to navigate through the consultancy’s website and what I found shocked me. I looked through the projects this company claimed to have successfully developed, only to find that all but one was not operational. So, while the website painted a fantastic picture of great looking brands, you cannot visit any of them – except one. Few were slated to open during the first half of 2018 but have still not made their debut.
To be frank, I became angry. Why would a company seemingly take credit for the success of brands that have never seen a day’s worth of sales? Why would someone take clients’ money and never give them a return on their investment? How can such a company land a great contract, as they did, when they have not shown proof of concept?
The answer, I believe, is that no one verifies what is being published online.
I truly feel bad for any young, enthusiastic entrepreneur who is thinking about venturing into our industry. It looks like it is going to be a ‘dog-eat-dog’ future. It is going to be brutal for any sane person to be able to operate under these conditions of deception and lies.
I am now close to retirement, so I am not the one who will suffer long-term. It is the newcomers to our industry who may have to endure this for 30+ years to come.
Yet, because of my love and passion for our industry, I cannot sit idle and watch it turn into the industry of crooks, quick bucks, passers through, and those who do not care about its longevity.
I cannot in good conscience watch potential hires lie, or vendors short change operators. I cannot sit by and watch operators not pay vendors, landlords take advantage of tenants, operators not pay overtime, customers falsely complaining to avoid having to pay, free food being given away to servers’ friends, and more.
We need a radical change, whether it’s how we hire team members, appoint contractors, sign agreements with suppliers, seek the services of consultants, partner with delivery companies, scout out landlords… and so on.
Boredom and lack of sleep on this flight is not what motivated me to write this article. It is the fact that I have nothing to lose, and I can now tell it like it is – which most of my colleagues cannot afford to do.