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Mon 28 Sep 2015 11:12 AM

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Dubai bars fighting over staff amidst tight competition among venues

"Finding someone to manage a bar is a disaster in this town," says one industry expert

Dubai bars fighting over staff amidst tight competition among venues

Dubai’s competitive and fast-growing bar and night life market has made it “a disaster” to find enough skilled staff, as operators fight to attract the best people

“The main issue I’ve had this year is finding skilled bar managers,” Fling Bar Services bar manager consultant Andrew Mullins told Arabian Business’ sister magazine Caterer Middle East in an industry roundtable on the matter.

“Finding someone to manage a bar is a disaster in this town. Ideally, we grow people from within but the issue I find with so many places opening up and staff being poached or moving on so quickly, it’s difficult to have them long enough to train them into those positions.”

Hakkasan Middle East & Asia head of wine Olivier Gasselin added that the trend to “overpay” for positions has made it difficult for some operators. “You try to retain your best staff but some people pay over the earth and poach everyone,” he added.

The trend isn’t confined to just independent venues or hotels, and experts claimed this was seen across the board.

The lack of regulation on wages is also a challenge, experts claimed.

“There’s always rumours and rumblings on who’s paying what. The biggest knock I see with that is that a lot of people becoming more and more transient with their jobs. They do the opening, realise things are not stable and then are desperately looking for the next thing,” said Utopia group beverage director Angus McGregor.

The number of openings in the market has something to do with the increased competition, said Thomas Gillgren, a bars manager at Whissle Group. “When you have an opening every week there are opportunities, and sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, but most of the time it’s not.”

Experts said the Gulf region is currently struggling to attract a good calibre of talent from the international market, saying Singapore is being viewed as the next hot property at the moment.

Another staffing issue highlighted by the roundtable was the seasonality of the industry. In other areas of the world, bar industry hopefuls and seasoned professionals do a few months at a venue in another part of the world. However, due to visa restrictions in this region, it’s not very easy.

Gillgren said seasonal work is becoming more and more of a trend.

McGregor claimed “the bureaucracy in that it is still really difficult because there’s no real visa structure in place for seasonal work. Is Dubai set up to cope with this shift?”

The panel unanimously agreed that if there was a provision for “seasonal visas” for perhaps October to April every year, it would help the industry tremendously, with the ability of attracting international skills and knowledge sharing.

The Caterer Middle East Bar & Nightlife Forum will take place on October 5, 2015 at Grosvenor House, Dubai. Click here for further details.

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Bar Manager 4 years ago

It’s quite simple really, cost of living here is increasing. So what are people going to do, they are going to entertain other higher offers. At the end of the day if someone is a valuable asset then a company is going to pay for that asset to increase their revenue. Some managers don’t quite understand the pay rise system hence the mindset of the above mentioned gentleman. Staff retention can be easy, reward those who bring the business more money. The silent baby is not always the happy one.

Ponder 4 years ago

You are seeing a very narrow picture. The article is stating a condition exists in the market (the bar/restaurants/clubs market) where human resource demand outstrips supply thus even mediocrity is amply rewarded financially by a new company eager to get their venture out of the gates. However, eventually mediocrity shines through and in tough conditions both the mediocre "manager" and the new venture suffer.

This has nothing to do with a fair wage - which is subjective and can differ from company to company - so lets not use the broad strokes of assumption. This has more to do with new investors and HR depts trying to fill up positions with rose tinted glasses only to discover the reality is quite different later on both in terms of market depth/revenue and skills/abilities of so called "manager".

As for rents increasing - they are increasing for bars too, if they increase prices any further public will be 1st to scream! Wages can't be increased if budgets are stretched already!