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E.B Cohen Educational Event: Restaurant HR in 2030

October 2nd, 2019


  • Eduardo J. Sanabia | Chief People Officer | Think Food Group

  • Akanksha Aga | Experience Director | FLIK International

  • Liz Murray | Director of HR and Communications | The Marlow Collective


  • Rachael Nemeth | CEO & Co-Founder| ESL Works

On Wednesday, October 2nd, Human Resource professionals and operators gathered in the Penn Club of New York to discuss the future of Human Resources. The event, which was hosted by E.B. Cohen Insurance and Risk Management, began with an interactive workshop, allowing for both attendees and panelists to examine the current state of HR as well as what HR could look like ten years from now. 

Rachael Nemeth, the event’s moderator, lead an active discussion amongst each group, giving each member the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the Human Resource issues at hand. Nemeth asked four questions to the groups, which consisted of the following: Three adjectives to describe HR now, Three adjectives to describe HR in 2030, Where is there space for innovation in HR/people operations, and What is your “OMTM” (one metric that matters) now and what will it be in 2030? Attendees exchanged their views on each topic and then shared their opinions with the overall group. Answers to the questions included the following: HR currently is challenging, complex, dynamic, diverse, and collaborative, while in 2030 it will be more automated with less human interaction, making the industry much more challenging. Attendees agreed that space for innovation falls in the category of recruitment and removing the overall bias from this process, as well as offering more approachable benefit packages. Lastly, attendees explained that morale, engagement, turnover rate, and equality are metrics that matter today, and they will continue to matter into the future.

As the workshop portion of the event concluded, attendees were offered a few moments to have the chance to network further as well as have a bite to eat before the panelists begun speaking.

Nemeth opened the panelist portion of the event by asking each panelists to briefly explain their background and industry experience. She then went onto ask Eduardo Sanabia his thoughts on how Think Food Group can be scaled, as it has been growing rapidly. Sanabia shared that Think Food Group has implemented a virtual recruiting system, in which interviews are now able to happen online and the offer letter is also generated online, allowing for managers to save a great amount of time during the hiring process and creating a more efficient process. 

Nemeth then went onto to ask the panelists about the realities and misconceptions of the talent shortages within the industry. Liz Murray shared that the talent shortage in New York offers an opportunity for new individuals to enter into the industry. Akanksha Aga added on that people are not just looking for someone to fill a position, but rather someone with talent to fill that position. Sanabia followed up by explaining that restaurants in Washington D.C. have been experiencing a similar struggle with recruiting talent and keeping a restaurant that has been in business for over twenty-five years to stay relevant. He went onto to add that it is an internal challenge and keeping employees that are already within the company is just as important.

Murray was then asked about the difference between hiring people based on skill versus experience. She explained that the industry is moving more to an environment based on skill, that will hopefully lead to a more diverse industry. She stated, “We have all these amazing applicants come through that we can see the potential in this person, and convincing a chef or a GM and saying ‘this person has everything you’re looking for, except the education or the specific experience in the industry, but if you can teach them how to do this job that you need them to do or want them to do, they will stay with you forever,’’ showing that if a person has the skillset and the will to do a certain job, they can do it, regardless if they have the experience.

Aga then voiced her opinion about what’s missing from training and food right now and what blanks can be filled in by 2030. She shared, “Given the talent landscape, if you find someone who may not have the skills and knowledge, look for attitude, because I can’ teach passion,” proving that people that want to be there will be able to excel, and people that share a positive attitude is what makes customers want to come back. Murray added on, “The passion that brings someone in the door is the foundation, but our job is to recognize that and then to give that person all the tools and education that they crave or need or want, to then grow.”

Sanabia agreed and added that engaging with applicants of this current day and age must focus on the idea of using technology and devices. When talking about the newest generation of millennials that just graduated from school he stated, “I want to be able to apply for a job in my hand, and get an instant response,” showing that this new age of the workforce focuses and thrives around this idea of immediacy based on technology. Aga went on to share that FLIK implemented a new internal app to increase employee engagement that has allowed for employees to fully support one another and stay up to date with what is going on within the company, sharing that technology has truly improved the way the hospitality industry operates.

Sanabia voiced that due to the complexities and lack of collaboration of technologies, it is challenging to learn how recruiting is affecting benefits or benefits is affecting training and so on. Since each process is completed through a different server or web application, it becomes much more difficult to learn how one process impacts another process, making HR fall behind that of other industries, but giving hope that this will be improved within the next decade.

Nemeth then noted that large organizations are partnering with smaller groups so that they can further spread their impact, leading to Murray being asked about what happens to the little guy during this process? Murray shared that smaller organizations have a different set of pressures, as well as a ton of room for creativity and space to grow. She stated, “When you’re small you can move quickly. I’m sure some of things you all face is that as things change if you try to roll out policy or think about major shift, you’re thinking about how you shift twenty businesses and two thousand people, whereas I’m thinking about how I shift eight to ten businesses and a hundred and fifty people,” explaining that there is greater room for staff to express their needs and for them to address those needs in real time.

When asked about the future of HR and what it may look like ten years down the road, Sanabia explained that the department may not be downsized, but rather priorities will shift, and individuals will have a different mindset and focus. Aga voiced that HR will need a greater use of technology and automation, in order to make the industry fun and exciting in the future, allowing for HR professionals to go back to basics and focus more on that human connection.

The panel concluded with a brief question and answer segment from the audience, followed by additional networking by all those that attended. To learn more about the event and to watch the video footage, please visit


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