The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) through its recent hospitality training programme in Rubavu and Musanze districts identified a huge gap in the hotel industry. Business Times reporter GERTRUDE MAJYAMBERE spoke to the instructors about the way forward for the country’s budding and critical industry.
Below are the excerpts:
Melvyn Yong, Culinary skills Master Trainer from Singapore
My honest observation is that Rwanda needs time to make it happen. For instance, in terms of food hygiene and kitchen sanitation, Singapore started this transformation between 30 to 40 years ago.
At that time, Singapore was probably in the same situation Rwanda is in today. But presently Singapore’s hotel standards conform to the international standards. It must however be understood that everything has a beginning; it takes time to build.
Hotel and restaurant service in Rwanda is slow compared to Singapore. Whereas it could take you a whole hour to be served food in Rwanda, the maximum time you can wait in Singapore is 15 minutes.
That is because Rwandan hotels wait for clients before they start to cut the raw and ice-cold foodstuff such as meat, where as in Singapore foodstuff is readily available for just cooking on order.
I understand the concerns of local hotels; its largely because they aren’t sure of customers coming. Hopefully, as we continue to train hotel personnel, businesses will be improving at the same time.
Beatrice Mutoni, Front Office Operations
One of the main things that our Government and hotel owners need to emphasise on is training of hotel personnel. Poor customer service in hotels and restaurants is a serious problem and I am proud that WDA is going to be right at the forefront of addressing it.
Clearly, our hotels lack standard operating procedures and it is imperative that concerned Government agencies sort out this issue as soon as possible.
Hotel owners and managers should also hire the right people, other than employing their relatives and friends because it jeopardizes professionalism.
Alex Munyaneza, Food and beverages
Quality hotel service is something you plan right from the start. But what happens here is that most people who build hotels consider only physical infrastructure.
They simply do not have a clue on what kind of skills should their staff posses. They do not understand how wrong decisions on staff hiring and firing will cost them dearly in terms of business.
Given that situation, therefore, hotel owners should equally be trained, at least in basic hospitality skills. Government should also set up minimum academic background required for one to be trained in hospitality skills.
Such a measure would help change the current scenario where everyone, even those who cannot read and write, end up in hotels.
Valante Munyangabe, Food and beverages
First and foremost, hospitality profession must be respected. From my experience, most people who work in hotels are just passers-by who are not interested in settling in the profession.
Such people will not have passion for the profession. Secondly, most hotel owners just exploit their employees.
Most hotels don’t have work shift arrangement, leaving most of their employees to work day and night. To help address that, owners put in place all categories of workers; for instance in Food and Beverages, there must be a waiter, a captain and a supervisor.
All these people need specific training because they carry out different tasks. Training institutions also need to reform their syllabi and concentrate more on practical training other than theory.
The percentage of practical training should not be less than 70 percent. That would help students get familiar with the equipment they will use when they join the industry.
Jackie Umuganwa, Culinary Art
My first impression is that we need to rollout intensive hospitality training programmes throughout the country. And hotel managers and owners need to take these training programmes seriously and ensure that their personnel are trained.
They should also mind who they hire to perform whatever task, and not pick anyone from the street to employ in such a sensitive profession.
Hotel owners should also provide a fair pay to their personnel because that affects their (personnel’s) performance. There are a couple of things that need to be tackled concurrently.
Emmanuel Bagire, Culinary Art
One of the strategies that can help us make a difference is to set up a hospitality model training centre which would help instructors to train in the hospitality industry. This is because most of the existing training centres are ill-equipped and that leads to lack of specialization.
Most of them provide patched-up courses for all hospitality disciplines, notably, hospitality and customer care, Food and Beverage service, and culinary skills.
Such a situation discourages specialization and undermines professionalism because you keep releasing half-baked graduates.
We also need a student qualification framework because people with different academic backgrounds do not have the same understanding capacity.