New report identifies the importance of upskilling in attracting and retaining talent in the Irish Hospitality Industry

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(L-R) Eileen O’Connell, Interactions Research, Michelle Guthrie, Development Advisor, Skillnet Ireland, Niamh O’Malley, Network Manager Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet, and Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive, Restaurants Association of Ireland.

Press release, November 20th, 2023: A new report from Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet, one of 70 Skillnet Ireland Business Networks nationwide, and the Restaurants Association of Ireland has highlighted the importance of upskilling in attracting and retaining talent in the Irish hospitality industry.

Launched last week, the report found that through the continued development of micro-credential programmes Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet could play a leading role in the delivery of training in the computer/digital skills arena, including specific upskilling in areas such as finance and accounts, payroll, electronic reservations, social media, e-learning and more.

According to the research, employers need to be open to, and offer, a range of career path opportunities, as learning and development programmes in the workplace are key to securing new hires and developing existing talent. The study shows that the feedback, views, and experience of employers are also essential for identifying upskilling requirements for the sector’s growth and development.

The aim of the Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet is to grow Ireland’s world-renowned hospitality sector, by ensuring the skills and training needs of member businesses are adequately resourced. The network develops and delivers bespoke upskilling solutions for business owners, managers, chefs and front of house staff.

Skillnet Ireland is the national talent development agency of the Government of Ireland, responsible for advancing the competitiveness, productivity, and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led talent development. In 2022, Skillnet Ireland delivered upskilling and training programmes, investing €70.2 million, to almost 25,000 businesses and over 92,000 workers through its 70 Business Networks, across most sectors and all regions in Ireland.

The in-depth report explores the profound impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sector’s workforce and provides actionable insights for businesses aiming to thrive in the face of ongoing challenges.

The hospitality industry was the first sector to be affected by temporary closures and layoffs during the pandemic and has grappled with a persistent skills shortage ever since. A 2021 Oireachtas report, on the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality and entertainment sectors, highlighted the departure of international staff returning home and employees transitioning to sectors like retail and distribution as significant factors affecting employment in the industry. As a result, businesses are faced with the urgent need to retrain, reskill, upskill, and source new personnel to meet evolving demands.

The research report, which had very strong engagement with over 800 respondents, examined the Irish hospitality industry’s diverse workforce through one-on-one interviews with industry leaders, in-depth focus groups with employees, and a comprehensive survey. This research led to the identification of six distinct employee segments, each with unique needs, attitudes and skills. The segments – including Future Star, Career Committed, Family Ties, Career Seeker, Career Mover, and Career Entrant – provide valuable insights of the industry’s workforce composition and what motivates each employee type.

The report recommends that a Future Star would benefit from role specific upskilling in areas such as revenue, accounts and/or food and beverage, while someone who falls into the Career Mover category could benefit from a micro-credential programme that would encourage them to stay in the sector.

To address these findings, the report includes comprehensive recommendations for hospitality sector businesses, including a review of learning and development planning, engaging in micro-credential programmes, revisiting recruitment strategies, implementing workplace coaching, conducting thorough analyses of past hires and digital literacy upskilling.

Welcoming the publication of the report, Niamh O’Malley, Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet Network Manager, said: “We are thrilled to present this report, which not only highlights the challenges faced by the hospitality industry but also provides practical solutions for businesses to adapt, thrive, and create a skilled, motivated workforce. By understanding the unique needs of different employee segments and implementing tailored training and development initiatives, businesses can foster talent, enhance employee satisfaction, and achieve long-term success”.

Meanwhile, Michelle Guthrie, Skillnet Ireland Development Advisor, said: “The Irish hospitality industry has a well-established reputation for delivering top-class offerings and customer service. The Covid-19 pandemic impacted all businesses but the hospitality sector, in particular, is still grappling with a number of legacy challenges brought about by the public health emergency. This report thoroughly examines these challenges and provides comprehensive actions for businesses looking to futureproof their workforce. Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet is committed to supporting businesses, through targeted talent development solutions that address their most urgent needs.”

The report can be accessed online here:

RAI Conference – Upskilling & Retention Session ‘Overcoming Challenges: Embracing a New Era for Hospitality’

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The Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet will be hosting a EU Year of Skills session at the Restaurants Association of Ireland Annual Conference. The session’s focus is on Upskilling & Retention  and the topic is ‘Overcoming Challenges: Embracing a New Era for Hospitality’.

The event will take place on Monday 13th November from 10am -4:30pm in Carton House, A Fairmont Managed Hotel, Co. Kildare. The event is aimed at Restaurant and hospitality business owners, managers, supervisors and front of house staff.

The Key Objectives of the Session:

  1. To present the findings of the Industry Insights study by Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet, providing attendees with detailed insights into the current generations working in Irish Hospitality.
  2. Enable businesses in the Irish Hospitality sector to identify and understand the specific training needs of their workforce.
  3. Empower attendees with the knowledge and tools required to strategically upskill their existing employees and train new staff, ensuring they acquire the necessary competencies to deliver high-quality products and customer service.
  4. Provide attendees with insights into creating positive work environments, fostering employee motivation, and implementing effective retention strategies.
  5. Discuss the importance of learning and development in the workplace. Highlight current trends in the field, emphasizing the need for continuous learning.
  6. Showcase the support available through Skillnet Ireland networks and explore the future of learning and development in the context of evolving industry demands and technological advancements.
  7. Raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and educate businesses about the importance of mental health support programs.
  8. Encourage the implementation of supportive policies and practices.
  9. Share exemplary human resource and learning and development practices. Present real-life examples from successful businesses, such as Baxter Storey Ireland, detailing their strategies, sources of inspiration, and actionable steps taken to enhance their human resource practices.
  10. Inspire attendees with success stories and practical examples. Encourage businesses to initiate positive changes in their training, employee management, and mental health support practices.
  11. Facilitate networking opportunities among attendees, fostering collaboration and the exchange of ideas within the industry.

Planned Outcomes of the Session:

  • Strategic Workforce Upskilling: Businesses will be equipped with valuable information to strategically upskill their workforce. They will be provided with practical insights into areas needing development, allowing businesses to invest in targeted training programs for their employees, ensuring they remain competent and competitive in the market.
  • Effective Employee Management: Businesses will gain practical techniques to help reduce staff turnover, foster a motivated workforce, and enhance overall productivity.
  • Insights into Learning and Development Trends: It will enable businesses to stay ahead of industry changes and prepare their workforce for future challenges.
  • Networking and Collaboration: The event will facilitate networking opportunities among industry professionals, allowing attendees to connect, collaborate, and share ideas. These connections can lead to future partnerships, collaborations, and knowledge exchanges, fostering a supportive and collaborative industry community.

Conference Agenda

  • 10.00 am Registration & Tea/Coffees
  • 10.45 am – 11.45 am Stream 1: Upskilling & Retention
  • 11.45 am – 12.45 pm Stream 2: Running a Restaurant in Ireland Today
  • 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm Networking Lunch
  • 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm Stream 3: Digitisation of the Irish Hospitality Industry
  • 3.00 pm – 3:30 pm Tea/Coffee Break
  • 3:30pm – 4:30pm Stream 4: Future of Irish Food Tourism

Ticket Information

Want to attend? You can book your place today by clicking the button below or by clicking HERE.

RAI Member? Contact to avail of RAI Member Discount Rate.

Restaurant & Hospitality Skills for the Unemployed Killarney 2023

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This Monday, was the final day of our Restaurant & Hospitality Skills programme. This programme was delivered as part of the Skills Connect Initiative.

The programme ran over 15 days from 19th June to 11th July and was delivered by our expert industry trainer, Fiona Dunne of Hospitality Skills Ireland.

Upon completion of this course all learners are now able to:

✅Demonstrate the daily tasks of restaurant and hospitality staff
✅Greet a guest and respond to their needs
✅Apply food hygiene standards in the workplace
✅Apply manual handling standards in the workplace
✅List basic food and beverage terminology
✅Perform the daily tasks of restaurant and hospitality staff including serving food and drink and handling customer complaints

At the final session, participants were presented with Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet Certificates of Completion. Check out photos below of participants receiving their certs!

Congratulations to the participants! Best wishes for your future!

Special thanks to Randles Hotel Killarney for hosting our training sessions and Bernadette Cahill, Intreo Killarney & Marie Harte, Intreo Cork for their collaboration. 

Our next Restaurant & Hospitality Skills for the Unemployed course will be taking place in Kilkenny this September! 

Customers Want to Connect – Best Ways for You to Communicate with Your Customers

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Customers are a key part to having a successful business, therefore you want to be able to communicate efficiently with them to build relationships, resolve conflicts and identify needs. This blog will discuss different methods to connect with your customers and the many benefits of doing so.

Image: Craft Business Magazine

Keep It Personal

Making your communication more personal is a great way to build relationships with your customers. Make them feel that they are more than just another customer/sale by asking them their names, remembering repeat customers orders, asking how their days going and give them a friendly complement. This can help customers to feel more connected to your company and may increase repeat custom. It will also create a more friendly and welcoming atmosphere for your customers and you! (10 Effective Ways to Connect with Your Customers –

Social Media

Although it may seem like the obvious one, its important to remember its not enough to just have a social media account, you need to be actively engaging with it. You can start simple with this! Choose someone within your organization (you or someone else) to start sharing posts from your workday once or twice a week. If you work in a restaurant, you can post videos of the chefs or baristas in action. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple post, some videos of people making coffee on TikTok have millions of views.

Social media can help you better your organizations customer service and connect with your customers in a quick and informal way. By responding to messages, questions and resolving any issues here quickly it shows your customers you care about what they have to say and are listening to them.

Social media can also help you to give your business more of a personality. By sharing posts, you think are funny and match your brand, you can remind customers its more than just a company, it’s a place with real people involved. This can make customers feel more connected to your business.

Image: Pizza

Communicating With the Rude Customer

This is something that’s unavoidable in every customer orientated business. No matter how much hard work you put in, somethings will go wrong and that’s okay! Not every customer is going to be a happy customer so as long as you know how to communicate and connect with an unhappy customer, you’re doing a good job.
Let them talk, its important to let them communicate their issue to you and makes them feel heard, show your invested in what they are saying and apologise if necessary. Resolve their issue to the best of your ability and once that’s done remind yourself you have done everything you can do and take a moment to clear your head as to not let it impact your mood or your other customers experiences with your business.

Ask For Feedback

Asking your customers for their feedback shows them that you value their opinions and that you want to keep on making continuous improvements for your business. Asking for feedback can happen in 2 ways, informally or formally/structured.

To receive some quick informal feedback, for example in a café/restaurant, ask your customers how their experience was and if they have enjoyed their food/coffee. This shows your customers you are taking an interest in them and their experience and may make them feel more valued.

For a more structured type of feedback, reach out to your customers after their experience with you has ended. You can post polls or questioners to your social media accounts or reach out to your customers directly if their contact information is something you have obtained from their experience. This type of feedback may offer you a more in dept insight into their experience, issues, opinions, and suggestions.

Most importantly don’t forget to act on the feedback you receive! There may not be a need to make drastic changes to your company based on customer feedback, but implementing small changes could possibly help your business for the better and show your customers you value them and their opinions.


Useful Skillnet Training Courses, Podcasts, Videos & Links:

Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet Courses:

Helpful Podcasts:

  • Ethan at BombBomb: The Customer Experience Podcast (On Spotify)
  • Customer Success Talks: Real Challenges, Expert Advice (On Spotify)

Quick Reading Links:

Helpful Videos:

What is customer service and why is it important for you?

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Customer service is a key aspect of having your hospitality business run smoothly, but in order to have this, we must first be able to differentiate between customer service and hospitality. Hospitality is about creating a welcoming atmosphere where your guests feel comfortable and can relax. Customer service is about taking extra steps to provide assistance and support to your guests, making their experience with your business easier (Hospitality V Customer Service: what is the difference?). This includes anything from showing customers at a restaurant to their table, to resolving any issues or complaints efficiently.

Why is customer service so important? It’s important as when done properly, it will attract new customers to your business, can increase volume of repeat customers, generate positive word of mouth and leave a good lasting impression! (Hospitality V Customer Service: what is the difference?).

How to provide great customer service:

Predicting Customer’s Needs

You will never be able to predict all of your customer’s needs, however, being able to predict a few of the most common needs of customers will ensure their experience runs smoothly. Examples of this can include anything from providing water to tables in a restaurant without being asked, to providing commonly used items in a hotel room such as toothbrush, face clothes, menus and robes. A little bit goes a long way so be sure to show your customers you are thinking about them and their needs before they have even arrived to create a great lasting impression (Making guests feel welcome with hotel customer service).

Finding Out Who Your Customers Are

Identifying who your customers are and what they are looking for can help you provide great customer service. By finding out your customers names, you will be able to provide them with a more personal experience, making the customer feel more valued. This can also be done through asking your customers the right questions. For example in a booking form, by asking the purpose of a visit (e.g., work party, anniversary, birthday) to a restaurant or hotel, this can help you to know what type of experience it is they are looking for and provide better customer service (Making guests feel welcome with hotel customer service).

Thank You/Feedback

Make sure your customer service doesn’t stop when guests leave to show you really care. You can do this by sending a thank you message to your guests to show you appreciate them and ask for any feedback. Listening to this feedback and making any necessary changes will allow for a better customer experience in the future.

Customer Service Training For Staff

When a customer has a question, they won’t always know who is the right person to ask, because of this, it is vital that all staff know how/are able to lend them a helping hand. Keep reading to find out more on this topic.

Great skills to teach your staff to help them provide good customer service:

Your team is a vital part of providing great customer service, therefore its important they are trained in the right areas to be able to do so. Below are some useful skills you can teach your staff to help them become better equipped in the area of customer service:

Listening and communications skills

Learn how to identify customer needs

Positive work attitude

Become more knowledgeable about your business/what your selling

Be able to provide knowledgeable recommendations on products or services of the business

Knowing how to build a positive relationship with customers

(12 Most Important Customer Service Skills in Retail)

Useful Skillnet Customer Service Training Courses, Podcasts & Links:

The following information will help you gain a further understanding of customer service in the hospitality industry through courses, podcasts and quick reading links!

Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet Courses:

Customer service – Delight & Upsell 27th September or 17th October 2023

Helpful Podcasts:

The Modern Customer Podcast by Blake Morgan

Experience This! by Joey Coleman & Dan Gingiss

The Intuitive Customer Podcast by BeyondPhilosophy

Frank Reactions by Tema Frank

Quick Reading Links:

‘Hospitality vs customer service: what is the difference?’ Available at:

‘Making guests feel welcome with hotel customer service’ Available at:

’12 Important Customer Service Skills in Retail and How To Teach Them to Your Team’ Available at:

‘The importance of customer service in the hospitality industry’ Available at:

Retention, Engagement and Morale

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Employee Retention

(Toner Buzz)

Employee retention is an organisations ability to keep staff within a organisation and reduce their turnover. Benefits of having high retention to an organisation are cost reduction, morale improvement, experienced employees and improved work culture (10 Benefits of Employee Retention for Businesses)

How to increase employee retention:

Methods of increasing employee retention include offering competitive benefits. This will make employees think of the organisation more positively and act as an incentive for them to stay working in the organisation. Examples of benefits are holiday time, work events/staff bonding days, perks such as food & drink, and flexible hours allowing for a work-life balance.

Offering training and development opportunities. If people see an opportunity to advance within your organisation, they will be less likely to look for it elsewhere. By offering upskilling and advancement opportunities employee retention may increase.

By providing recognition for good work and constructive feedback on how to make changes to work if necessary, staff will feel more valued in the workplace and will be more likely to stay working there.

(What is Employee Retention? Everything You Need to Know)

Employee Engagement

(5 Powerful Steps To Improve Employee Engagement)

Employee engagement examines how connected people are to their organisation and how motivated they are to do their work to the best of their ability and stay working within the organisation. Benefits of employee engagement are higher productivity, lower absenteeism, higher customer satisfaction and lower employee retention.

How to increase employee engagement:

Motivating and challenging work: Employees will be more engaged and motivated if they are doing work that utilities their strengths and gives them the opportunity to develop new skills

Having a good leader: Having a leader that supports and inspires their team is vital to good employee engagement as people will become more invested in their work and engaged with the company.

(What is Employee Engagement? What, Why and How to Improve it).

Employee Morale

Employee morale is the attitudes and outlooks employees within a business have. It’s important to have good employee morale so it does not impact your employee retention, productivity and engagement levels (Employee Moral: Definition, Affecting Factors, and How to Boost Morale).

Common causes of low employee morale in the work places are poor communication between management and employees, internal changes that lead to job anxiety (e.g., layoffs) and poor leaders who do not support their teams (15 Effective Ways to Boost Employee Morale).

Keep reading to learn different ways to boost morale in your organisation!

How to boost employee morale:

A method to boost employee morale in the workplace is to promote diversity. Bringing together a diverse group of people will bring together a wider range of ideas, skills, and experiences that will boost morale by making the workplace more enjoyable and creative.

Allowing more short and regular breaks can refresh your employees and may result in them being more relaxed, productive and using their time more efficiently. It will also allow for more socialization in the workplace making it a friendlier place and boosting morale.

Teamwork promotes collaborative work and new ideas. Incorporating more of this into your organisation may improve production and give your employees a break from doing the same tasks everyday making them more invested in work.

(15 Effective Ways to Boost Employee Morale)

Useful Skillnet Engagement, Retention and Morale Training Courses, Podcasts & Links:

The following information will help you gain a further understanding on employee engagement, retention and morale in the hospitality industry through courses, podcasts and quick reading links!

Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet Courses:

Retention, Engagement and Morale 5th September. More information at:

Communicating for Performance 7th June. More information at:

Helpful Podcasts:

The Gap: Perspectives on Employee Retention with Clint Pulver

Engaging People Podcast by decisionwise

How To Boost Employee Morale With Simple Changes To Your Workspace by Biz Bros Podcast

Quick Reading Links:

‘10 Benefits of Employee Retention for Businesses’ found at:

‘Increasing recruitment and retention with the 4 pillars of employee engagement’

‘How to improve employee engagement with 10 simple ideas’

‘Employee Morale: Definition, Affecting Factors, and How to Boost Morale’

‘What is Employee Retention? Everything You Need to Know’

’15 Effective Ways to Boost Employee Morale’

Wellbeing in the workplace

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Wellbeing in the workplace

People can spend up to a third of their waking hours at work, so it stands to reason that the workplace has a big impact on our physical and mental well-being.

The Importance Of Wellbeing in the workplace

Promoting employee wellbeing benefits both the organization and its employees. Stress may be avoided and productive workplaces where people can thrive are created by promoting wellbeing. A key enabler of employee engagement and organizational performance might be good health and wellness.(The importance of mental health in the Workplace)

Employers Support

It is important for employers to show that they genuinely care for the physical and mental well being of their employees and that they hold equal importance. This creates a safe and secure work environment for their employees which may significantly increase their general happiness in their day-today lives and their overall performance in the company. Employers should conduct regular check-in’s with their employees, one-to-one to establish their support.

Training programs should also be available to employees to emphasise that both their physical and mental wellbeing is a priority. “Headspace” is a great App that contains many courses beneficial for your employees overall mental and physical well being in the workplace. (Headspace, Headspace for work demo).(Headspace, Headspace for work demo)

As an employer its important also to monitor your employers to encourage them to open up. You can use numerous screening tools, like surveys and questionnaires, to ensure that your staff are content and healthy. This is a practical technique to make sure that your staff members are content and confident in themselves. (The importance of mental health in the Workplace).

As an employer it is also important to encourage a healthy balance between work, personal life and flexible working hours at work.

It’s crucial to be inclusive at work and to keep a positive business culture if you want to ensure that you are encouraging a happy workplace. Also encourage your employees to connect with their colleagues regularly.

Types of Wellbeing in the workplace

It is important to recognise the types of wellbeing to ensure that they are being maintained throughout the duration of your employment in a company. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Physical wellbeing

is about taking good care of your physical body so that you can function as efficiently as possible in your regular activities. Your mental health is significantly influenced by how physically you are feeling. Being physically healthy involves keeping an eye on your nutrition and exercise routine. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Emotional wellbeing

is about being conscious of our ideas, feelings, and how those things influence how we act. We can better respond to daily difficulties and demands by being conscious of our emotions and how they affect us. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Occupational wellbeing

is about having the opportunity to learn, advance, and grow in a secure, healthy, and supportive work environment, and feeling qualified and capable enough to carry out your day-to-day responsibilities. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Social and cultural wellbeing

Social wellbeing refers to your capacity for social interaction and the development of ties with others around you that help you in your daily life, extremely crucial for preserving good health, wellbeing, and a sense of community, as well as for feeling respected and cared for. Your cultural welfare has an effect on your social wellbeing as well. You experience this when you feel accepted and encouraged to openly express your unique differences. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Financial wellbeing

is understanding your finances and being able to balance, save, and spend money effectively and within your means in order to manage and plan your finances. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Environmental wellbeing

Having a secure and healthy work environment is crucial since your surroundings and interactions with them have an impact on your health and wellbeing. Your welfare depends critically on your ability to reduce risks and hazards and obtain the resources you need to do so. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

  1. Intellectual wellbeing

achieving both personal and professional fulfilment at work while retaining a sense of balance in our lives outside of work. It also entails developing your knowledge and abilities and taking part in imaginative and mentally challenging activities. (Minding your wellbeing programme)

Helpful Podcasts

Below are some helpful podcasts, that you can conveniently listen to whenever, wherever on Spotify and become educated on wellbeing in the workplace.

Training Programmes through RH Skillnet

Here at the Restaurant & Hospitality Skillnet, we support workplace well being with onsite and public training courses to suit your needs. Contact us for more information

Contact us

  • Email:
  • Phone: 01 6779901


3 Steps to Successfully Lead Remote Teams

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By Cariona Neary

Things fall apart the centre cannot hold. Commentators frequently invoke Yeats’ lines when describing a chaotic situation. Most of us have  emerged from those early chaotic days of converting our hospitality teams to 100% virtual. And we’re managing. Or are we? This new working world demands a different standard of leadership from us all. As we prepare to re-open for business, how can we help everyone feel part of a great team again?

The pressures on teams are considerable. As leaders, we need to create stability, managing both for well-being and results. Our hospitality organisations are seeking to build agility to survive and even thrive in a global economy that is struggling to function. Our team members are facing their own challenges, with home schooling, uncertainty about future employment and maybe even health issues. People in the hospitality business thrive on the buzz of interacting with colleagues and guests. For many, both leaders and staff,  the lack of personal interaction is truly challenging.  If you can show strong leadership in this situation, you can be assured that you will thrive in any situation!


Leading Remote Teams Successfully
The Challenge

People working remotely can become ‘detached’ from the team. How can we build that strong team spirit as we get ready to re-open our businesses?

The Solution

Spend time building up your virtual team goals. Be clear about roles and responsibilities. Keep everything short-term and focused. Look after both well-being and results.

Takeaway Actions

Use your new short term goals to stabilise your team. Communicate until it hurts! Build trust with lots of feedback. Communicate confidence in your team but also acknowledge the stress people are experiencing.

  1. Plan for Short Term Goals

Your plan will be built on some key pillars, regardless of whether you run a restaurant, hotel or bar: Staff needs, Customer needs, Cost control, New Revenue Streams, Redesigning requirements. You can plan around these pillars by taking a short term focus, for example, three-week sprints, assigning specific roles and responsibilities for team members to contribute during the sprint. Since the pandemic, research on remote teams has shown that roles and responsibilities are too unclear for many and this is leading to low morale. The ‘sprint’ approach can help you overcome this challenge.

  1. Communicate until it Hurts!

Remember that great phrase, you’re checking in, not checking up! Use daily Check Ins to help set people’s focus for the day. Listen for new ideas. Just because you’re the leader does not mean you have to have all the answers! A weekly call in from your most senior manager can help keep the team motivated. Each meeting format should be contributing to your Planning Pillars. Focus on providing lots of positive feedback to keep up people’s morale. After each sprint, celebrate, review, learn, reset.

  1. Show Confidence and Support in your Team

Supportive leadership will require a two-pronged approach. While you need to focus on short term results, you also need to acknowledge the real stress and anxiety that your people may be experiencing. Show your confidence in your team with phrases such as “Let’s look at our strengths here and see how we can build on those”, “What do our customers really love about coming here. How can we provide that feeling in this new environment?” “I know this is tough but we’re going to handle this together”…. By asking your team for their help and ideas you show confidence in your collective ability to work through this challenging time.

And to finish with Yeats, “All has changed, changed utterly”. Strong leadership can be a reassuring constant in these challenging times.

Cariona Neary is a trainer and consultant to the Hospitality sector working with Fáilte Ireland for over fifteen years as well as Ireland’s leading organisations in the hotel and restaurant sector. She has just completed a series of webinars, co-hosted with leadership expert, Karl O’Connor,  on Leading Change, Managing Remote Teams and Leading Service that Sells with the RHS Skillnet. The above article is based on her workshops on leading remote teams. For further information on any of Cariona’s webinars, contact Niamh O’Malley. All training  bookings can be made via:

For further information on Cariona Neary visit or contact her at


How to Lead Your Hospitality Business Successfully Through Change

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By Cariona Neary

Never has it been more challenging for leaders in the hospitality business. Yes, owners and managers of restaurants and hotels are used to leading through crisis, it happens every other night when we’re running a busy kitchen or you unexpectedly get a very late but valuable booking. But this time of uncertainty is a very different beast and the industry is looking for ways to cope and to manage the situation with some clarity.

The Restaurant and Hospitality Skillnet has been hosting a series of webinars on Leading through Change that have been so heavily attended that Niamh O’Malley ran five repeat webinars to deal with the demand from the industry. We want to bring you the most important ideas from this webinar series to help you to find direction at a time of intense and rapid change. We also want to share some of the great ideas leaders from the industry shared with each other during the webinars.

You’re not the only one feeling overwhelmed!

As we kicked off each webinar, we asked participants how they were feeling. The answers were remarkably consistent across the five workshops. Owners and managers were feeling worried, overwhelmed and scared. We shared an article from the Harvard Business Review on the impact of change on our emotions. Based on the feelings of grief, as we realise we are losing something we   value, in this case our business, people can feel anger and despair. These emotions are typical reactions to what we now know is the ‘Change Curve’, a phenomenon we also experience as a type of ‘grief’. In the webinar we explored how we evolve our thinking as we travel through the Change Curve, eventually reaching an acceptance of our new situation.

As leaders, we need to find our way through the Change Curve and find ways to manage our own emotions and, most importantly, be strong and supportive leaders to our colleagues and family because they are also facing their own emotional challenges.

How to Lead through the Change Curve

The goal of managers must be to help themselves and their key team members to focus on what they can do rather than being overwhelmed with thoughts about things they can’t control. Getting through this time of uncertainty is about ‘Change in 100 small steps’. One participant, Shane Treacy, MD of the Mercantile Group, a leading Irish hospitality group of nine bars and restaurants, including Café en Seine, Whelan’s and The George, suggested that the industry can use this time to plan. In his business, he is working with his team to brainstorm a whole range of scenarios. He is scenario planning for different levels of business and working with his management team to understand how to run a business at different levels of activity, from 30% to 50%, and eventually get back to full capacity.

Another participant, Anke Hartman, runs a wine bar, restaurant and Guest House in Clifden. Seeing her business disappear after a successful opening last year left her feeling lost. When she learned about the Change Curve and talked to other hospitality business owners going through the same experience in the Zoom Breakout Sessions, she commented, “I suddenly saw where I was on the Change Curve and felt motivated to move from being stagnant to having a ‘doing’ mindset. I’ve done so much since the workshop, I’ve got the website going, I’m going to run wine tasting sessions on Zoom…”

Control the Controllables

Karl O’Connor, joined Cariona Neary on the Leading through Change webinars, bringing his wide experience of managing performance through the Change Curve to the discussion. Having worked with a range of organisations through the last financial crisis, he has deep expertise in leading through change. His big advice was for businesses to focus energy and attention on what they can control rather than allowing our emotions to become overwhelmed by worrying about things outside our control such as the economy. He also advises “Put on your oxygen mask first”. By that he means that leaders must mind themselves and look after their own mental and physical health before they can look after their team.

Top Tips for Leading Change Webinars


  • Understand the leadership challenge you face. Use the Change Curve to help you know where your mental attitude is and also to help you understand where your team is on the Curve.
  • The Change Curve can feel like a game of Snakes and Ladders. Some days you are coping well and other days you slip back and feel less purposeful. People transition through the curve at different rates so we need to show empathy and listen.
  • You don’t have all the answers. Be authentic, it’s better to ‘Tell people what you know. Tell people what you don’t know. Let’s work together to build explore different scenarios.’
  • Communicate early and often.


  • Trade in speculation. Be honest and truthful about the facts.
  • Sugarcoat the situation.

It’s a start with people beginning once again to control what they can, set short-term goals and lead through change.

At the end of each webinar, we asked people how they were feeling, now that they had shared their stories with their colleagues in the hospitality sector and also learned about how to lead through change. The language had changed from ‘worried’, ‘scared’ to ‘supported’, ‘committed’, ‘confident’.

Overall, the feedback has been very positive. Fiona Barry, Senior Sales Manager at the Kinsley Hotel in Cork said: Thanks so much, this is the best workshop I’ve done since all this started. I’ll recommend my colleagues to sign up.


Cariona Neary is a trainer and consultant to the Hospitality sector working with Failte Ireland for over fifteen years as well as Ireland’s leading organisations in the hotel and restaurant sector. The final Leading Through Change workshop takes place on 12th May. Cariona will facilitate a workshop on Leading Remote Teams on 13th May and Leading Service that Sells on Tuesday 19th May. Contact Niamh O’Malley, All bookings can be made via:


THANK YOU – A special thank you to Cariona for writing this great article for the Skillnet