Our appetite for tasty & cheap exotic cuisine is encouraging poor payment compliance & OHS practices

Introduction

We all love Asian food, Middle Eastern food and many other exotic cuisines from all around the world, but we also love a bargain too!  Is our continuous search for tasty and cheap exotic food causing downward pressure on this sector of the restaurant industry, which in turn is causing them to cut corners not only with the ingredient quality and hygiene practices around the kitchen but also with payment compliance and OHS?

 

Authentic Ambience Or Cheap Labour?

How many times you’ve noticed that the entire crew at a particular restaurant, are immigrants with the same background as the restaurant’s cuisine country of origin.  Do you think that this is because the owner wants you to have authentic experience or is it because, the owner is more comfortable to cut corners when all the crew are immigrants, and who come from his own background too?I think that you know the answer to this question, right?  Well, it makes sense if the crew of the back of the house, had the same heritage as the cuisine’s, but how about the front of the house crew?  Why does every one of them need to be an immigrant and one who comes from the same country as the cuisine? If anything, the opposite here should be true – to me, it would make a lot more sense if the front of the house crew were Australian with good English so they can communicate with the multi-background customers.  You know, even without researching it, I’m pretty sure that about 90% of the customers of a particular restaurant in Australia, wouldn’t speak the same language as the restaurant’s heritage’s language.

Authentic Ambience Or Cheap Labour

 

How About Seven Eleven – They Don’t Even Make Food!

If you’re still not convinced, then how about Seven Eleven in Sydney CBD for example where all the staff are immigrants who come from the same country as the owner of that particular franchise.  Well, surely, in this case, this has nothing to do with the “authentic experience” right? I mean Seven Eleven is a multi-billion American public company and don’t exactly cook or serve any exotic food. And we all know what happened at Seven Eleven in terms of underpaying employees, right?  Is this a clear-enough example for you in terms of cutting corners in the area of payment compliance.

 

It’s Less Risky To Underpay Workers If The Whole Restaurant Is Inside A Bubble

OK, so let me share with you why I think they’re doing it and why it’s not a great thing for our country!  Well as many of you either already know or at least suspect, they’re doing it because they think that running their restaurant within a bubble, allows them to get away with underpayment and OHS violation.  Why do they think so?  Here’s what I think:

  • They think that immigrants with very little English skills and no Australian qualifications, have fewer opportunities in the mainstream Australian industries and therefore are more desperate and would put up with such practices
  • They think that those immigrants will be too scared to cause trouble because they don’t know how to defend themselves, neither have the means to, in case such a dispute goes to court
  • They think that immigrants are intimidated by the fact that a dispute with their employer, can in some cases travel back home and implicate them in unpleasant confrontations and consequences.

 

It’s a terrible thing to know that somehow we could be contributing to those negative pressures on some immigrants who come to our shores seeking work to help them accomplish their dreams.

 

Even Some Prestigious & Expensive Restaurants Are Doing It Too!

I was recently shocked when I had dinner at a very prestigious and expensive restaurant in Balmain… and noticed that all the workers are immigrants with hardly any English and also come from the same background as the food’s culture of origin.  So this, in my opinion, is even more interesting because the owner is not trying to cut corners in order to better compete, but instead, they’re doing it for pure greed! They’re doing it to reduce their labour cost and therefore increase their profit. You see their average main dish cost about $38 – do you see what I mean?
So we’re allowing restaurants like these to get away with underpayment abuses for pure greed and we don’t even realise it.
greedy

 

More Rife Inside the Bubble

I mean the entire restaurant industry, not only the “exotic-cuisine” restaurant category, is a tough place for workers and remuneration across the entire industry is not exactly great.  But I definitely think that the bubbles those particular restaurants put up around their businesses, create the perfect environment for the worst cases of worker payment compliance and OHS abuse, to be rife.

 

It’s Bad For Everyone Because Very Few Workers Emerge From The Bubble, Reach Their Dream and Contribute To Our Democracy

Why is this bad for our county?  It’s bad for our country because those immigrants that get sucked into those bubbles, they normally stay in those bubbles for a long time and the problem is they remain in this vicious cycle where they don’t get the chance to work in the rest of our country’s workforce.  This is really bad for our country, economy and of course for them because we miss out on having some of these talented workers, developing into leaders who can contribute a lot more to our economy, our social life, our justice system and our democracy.

 

Would Bringing This Industry In line Put The Prices Up and Decrease its popularity?

price_value
I don’t think so – I believe in a free market economy and I believe in liberty and so I think that we can bring this section of the industry in line with the rest of the restaurant industry and without necessarily causing the prices to go up.  Entrepreneurism, free market, fair competition, fair pay, will work it out and solutions will be invented to keep those cuisine restaurants attractive destinations for diners and if anything, in my opinion, that section of the industry will even thrive more.  Cleaning the negative distractions off an industry that’s already adored by so many diners, can only be more positive to the image of that industry.  Empowering those immigrants and inspiring them will create a happier, more productive and more creative workers anyway, and; so the restaurant owner will end up benefiting in the long run and this will also flow through to the consumers and to the fabric of our country.

 

Let’s Hear From HR Professionals About This

This is my perspective as an immigrant, Australian and Entrepreneur and so I would love to hear the perspective of HR professionals about this topic – please comment below and let me know what you think –  also please share this article on social media if you like it 🙂


Anwar Khalil

Author

Anwar Khalil

CEO

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