The hospitality sector is filled with talented individuals, but there is an immense opportunity to better capture, retain, and develop the full breadth of human potential, writes Stefan Catoui, co-founder of Vita Mojo 


The challenges of paying staff well and the long-term investment in development are well-known in hospitality—we grappled with them daily while navigating from one crisis to the next. Many professionals dedicate their careers to developing those around them, but hospitality organisations still have significant room for improvement.

Those looking to enter the industry are expected to put in years, or even decades, of low pay and long hours before they climb the ranks. Thankfully, toxic and abusive environments are no longer seen as a badge of honour. However, it’s still gritty work and most roles are temporary stepping stones done out of passion or necessity. We can do better. We have to do better.

Investing in people is just as important as investing in technology or systems. Low investment in people means low opportunities, and coupled with low wages, the industry attracts transitory employees who, even if they are not low-skilled, are paid as if that is the case. 

There’s no development beyond what’s necessary to get by on a busy service - there seem to be low incentives for organisations to open new career paths. I have chef friends who had to start a market food stall in their midlife (despite not having the skills or desire to have a business) because the only options for them were to run service in larger and larger kitchens. This means no weekends, being home after midnight and jumping on the line when understaffed. The small pool of people who rise through the ranks to become exec chefs, and FOH managers or take the operations path do so at a huge personal or financial investment, alongside the multi-year grind.

The hospitality industry is filled with talented individuals, but there is an immense opportunity to better capture, retain, and develop the full breadth of human potential.

The world is becoming more complex, and the age of factory setup is over. We must unleash people’s creativity and give them context, constraints, and goals. Then, they can apply their variety of perspectives and creativity to uncover solutions that would take decades to emerge at the top of the hierarchy. 

For that to happen, we need to think hard and develop new career paths that improve the bottom line, the customer experience, and the industry in a way that more closely matches today’s complexity.

For example, mathematically inclined people tend to work only in accounting and, if lucky, operations. Many chains with 500+ employees have not developed a data function within the organisation. They may not even consider bringing data engineering and analysis in-house, even in the digital age, when data knowledge should be present at the HQ level and in each store. 

Investment in these people early on in an organisation’s life leads to better decision-making based on more complete or correct data and better decisions in choosing the systems used to generate useful data for the organisation.

Businesses should embrace technical-minded hackers in the industry—the gamers and tech-obsessed. They may be all thumbs when it comes to chopping onions, but we should welcome people with a love of technology at every level by creating a career path for tech stewardship. This could include positions such as a shop-level “tech steward,” an area-level “tech assistant,” and a “director of tech” at the highest level.

The sector should also welcome creatively-minded people who may lack organisational skills or precision but can spot new problems and see new perspectives.  These individuals can help improve relationships and solve local problems at the store level because they will obsess about it unencumbered by the past or self-censoring behaviour that is drilled into us most of our school years.

Finally, organisations who thrive are those that are getting comfortable with bringing agile thinking into the organisation. This means continuously iterating and improving technology, people, and systems rather than seeking one-off solutions that will set them up for another decade. It also means understanding the reality of the world’s complex problems, which requires discovery and quick learning rather than imprecise planning.

The hospitality industry has faced challenges bitterly passed down through generations. All of us working in the industry today can break this cycle. We need to take care of ourselves to take care of our people. By investing in our employees and our organisations, we improve the industry and truly redefine our beloved industry for the decades to come. 

  • Vita Mojo transforms the chaos of order management and delivers calm to kitchens worldwide. Founded in 2016, Vita Mojo started life as the UK’s first cashless, digital-only restaurant. But it soon became clear the entire hospitality industry could benefit from its end-to-end, flexible Order Management System. Partnering with 150+ brands worldwide (including Subway, LEON and YO!) the platform provides one central menu to update, one system to manage every order, and one source for all sales data, giving scaling brands the breathing space to expand. For more information visit

Stefan Catoiu

Stefan Catoiu