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Sun 7 Oct 2007 12:45 PM

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A world without women

Jordan's food and beverage scene is slowly evolving but shortage of women is restricting exchange of ideas.

Jordan's food and beverage scene is slowly evolving but shortage of women is restricting exchange of ideas.

Dotted with green fields and orchards, Jordan produces an abundance of fresh home grown fruit and vegetables. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate and the fertile soil in the north of the country, farmers can grow most ingredients to order, even exotic Oriental vegetables that are playing an increasingly important role in Jordanian cuisine.

But although edible produce is in high supply, Jordan lacks another commodity that is even harder to find.

That is the biggest challenge – to attract the right people and to motivate and keep them.

"One challenge we have here is that it is very difficult to attract female staff to the service industry," explains Andy Kuna, director of food and beverage, Four Seasons Amman.

"I think that culturally, being in the service industry is still perceived as being a servant in a way, and that is not widely accepted," says Kunz.

Only eight of the hotel's 250-strong food and beverage team and female, and four of those are expatriates.

Kunz says a combination of the social taboo of working in food and beverage and the cultural traditions imposed by some families with regard to working with alcohol are to blame for the situation.

"One of the ways to change this is to inform people what the hotel business really is about," he says.

"Other countries in the region, like Egypt and Syria, have already been through that. If I look at our hotels in Damascus and Cairo, they have much more female staff, so it has obviously started to become more acceptable."

The ability to attract female staff is part of a wider problem affecting the hospitality industry in Jordan though: staff retention and internal growth. Kunz says that while many expats fill the posts of senior management, it will be many years before these positions are filled with Jordanian locals, as presently most Jordanian staff at the Four Seasons Amman are in less senior roles.

"The problem is that when people grow strong and start to develop, they all move to the GCC because the packages are much more interesting," Kunz explains.

"That is the biggest challenge-to attract the right people and to motivate them and to keep them."

But things are looking up. An more young Jordanians return to the country from studies in the US or Europe, they bring with them new ideas and a fresh approach to both cuisine and the workplace.

"It is our job both to provide customers with what they want and to introduce them to new things. When Four Seasons Amman opened five years ago, we introduced luxury to the city, and we intend to continue this pattern of innovation," Kunz concluded.

Kunz says cultural restrictions and social preconceptions are preventing are preventing female staff from joining the food and beverage industry in Jordan.

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