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RIHA Column: Embracing The Hospitality Industry’s New Reality

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

By Dale J. Venturini, President & CEO, RI Hospitality Association

It is difficult to fully comprehend the massively detrimental impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing public safety regulations that it spawned had on the hospitality industry and our businesses over these last two-plus years. We are still recovering and recalibrating our business models and will be for some time to come. Despite the many challenges that our hotels, restaurants and industry businesses are dealing with, we are working within our means to move forward and accept our “new reality.”

Our industry’s operators are adapting on the go; business has been good. There is certainly pent-up customer demand, but operating our businesses is becoming more difficult. From the ongoing staffing crisis resulting from “The Great Resignation,” to unresolved supply chain disruptions and increased product and operational costs due to rampant inflation, our industry faces an uphill battle in the years to come.

Labor shortages and rising labor costs are not going away any time soon, and our industry can do more to attract, retain and incentivize workers. All of our industry’s businesses should take a look at how they treat their employees, if they are being properly compensated for the work that is expected of them and strategize how to improve productivity in the workplace.

New ways of showing value, in addition to dollars, are necessary to attract the best workers. Recently, we launched the RI Hospitality Association Group 401(k) Plan for members in partnership with U.S. Wealth Management. For many hospitality workers, this represents the first time that they will have access to an employer-provided retirement plan.

Now is the time to really think outside the box and see what value you can bring to your valued staff.

Fortunately, we are seeing many businesses respond with creativity and confidence. Incorporating many of the lessons and solutions we learned during the pandemic, like investing in web-based solutions and new technologies including robotic restaurant workers, will allow our businesses to transition more smoothly into our industry’s next chapter as we all move past this public health crisis.

There are factors within our control that will allow our industry to experience a stronger rebound post-pandemic. Enhancing the customer experience by improving safety, incorporating sustainability into our business models, offering updated amenities and more will help us to “keep up with the times.” Building trust with our patrons is crucial to our mission and will only serve to improve our industry’s outlook both short-term and long-term.

While the pace at which we recover is not fully in our control, putting our foot on the gas does help us get to the finish line faster. For those struggling to adapt, please consider looking at what your successful peers are doing and try to pull inspiration from that. Do not be afraid to start a conversation or collaboration, or to ask for a little help. As we have been hearing for two years now, “We are in this together.”

As always, I encourage you to visit the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) website, www.rihospitality.org, for valuable industry information, resources and support. As we continue on the path toward full recovery, RIHA will continue to serve as the voice of our industry on the local level.

A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.

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