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Turned Tides: Employers feeling privileged that employees even glance their way

At the FIBA Shifting Trends event on Tuesday, hospitality industry experts shared insights into how to deal with the latest shift in recruiting.

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  • | 5:15 p.m. March 1, 2023
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The first panelists at the FIBA event discussed recruiting and retaining employees. Pictured, from left, are Jennifer Corinna and Katie Molloy, both of Greenberg Traurig, Clyde Smith, Bilmar Beach Resort, and Matt Loder Sr, Crabby Bill’s.
The first panelists at the FIBA event discussed recruiting and retaining employees. Pictured, from left, are Jennifer Corinna and Katie Molloy, both of Greenberg Traurig, Clyde Smith, Bilmar Beach Resort, and Matt Loder Sr, Crabby Bill’s.
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A few gasps erupted Feb. 28 at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC in Tampa when attorney Katie Molloy shared that employees can sue for twice what they’re owed if an employer doesn’t follow wage and hour laws properly — an issue plaguing the hospitality industry at the moment. 

“At the end of the day, you have to pay your employees, and you have to treat them fairly,” she says.

With staffing shortages, Molloy says there’s a lot more overtime being worked and off the clock hours being logged. Not to mention extra pressure on labor budgets and hours. 

“These are all a recipe for disaster if an employer is not compliant with wage and hour laws.”

Molloy, a Tampa shareholder of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, was one of many speakers at the Florida Israel Business Accelerator’s Shifting Trends in Talent and Customer Loyalty event. 

Clyde Smith, the general manager at Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island, says it's one of the toughest times for the industry in terms of recruiting and retaining employees. 

“The old-school feeling of being privileged that they’re working for you, it’s almost the other way around now,” he says. “We’re privileged that (employees) would even consider working for us.” 

“I joke that we used to have a ‘no tattoo’ policy, but now it’s a mandatory tattoo policy,” he adds, noting the company has had to be flexible.  

Another part of that flexibility is meeting an employee where they’re at if something in their personal life is affecting their professional life. For example, if an employee is always 10 minutes late, Smith says to find out what’s causing that to happen. 

“Would it kill you to move your schedule to 8:45 instead of 8:30?” he poses. “What’s going to happen in those 15 minutes? Nothing, but you might save an employee.” 

But Smith also has a Keurig machine in his office that doesn’t hurt the situation. 

Other highlights in recruiting and retaining employees from the event include: 

  • Off-the-clock labor is an “instant liability,” Molloy says. “If a manager says ‘Go clock out, but don’t forget to fill the ketchup bottles,’ you better be very clear that (the employee) fills the ketchup bottles before (they) clock out.” Misclassification of employees' roles at work (i.e., having a manager performing 60 hours of hourly wage work) and not treating gratuities and service charges properly are also issues that Molloy has been noticing more. 
  • Matt Loder, the owner of Crabby Bill's in Indian Rocks Beach, says the biggest aspect of recruiting and retention right now is competitive pay, good health care insurance and respect. “I have 700 employees, and I try very hard to know people’s names,” he says. “I get it wrong 10 times, but I will eventually get your name right.” 
  • Even building customer loyalty comes down to recruiting and retaining employees. During the customer loyalty panel Wayne Raath, the general manager at Lone Palm Golf Club in Lakeland, made a reference back to the first panel of the evening. “Retaining great employees is the key to customer loyalty,” he says. “In order to build customer loyalty, the same people have to produce the product (the customer has) come back for.”
  • An early moment of mentorship that Chris Sullivan, the founder of Outback Steakhouse, recalled was when an employer trusted him with a management role that he might not have been ready for, though he worked hard and made sure to earn it. "Norman (Brinker) gave a bunch of us young people way too much responsibility, way too early,” he says. The late Norman Brinker was a restaurateur that founded and owned chains including Steak and Ale, Bennigan’s Grill and Tavern, and Chili’s. That notion of giving employees opportunities is something Sullivan implements in his businesses today. “We’re constantly doing that (to) move them up in the organization.”
  • Sullivan's key to successful recruiting is to just be in a constant state of hiring. “You have to constantly be searching for it," he says. "You can never stop. You’re hiring every day.”


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