The catering industry has been desperately looking for staff, especially since the end of the pandemic. Many service employees have changed careers and found jobs in other industries. In order to tackle this challenge, Coople and GastroSuisse, the Swiss association for the hotel and restaurant industry, have joined forces and launched a course for career changers. The aim is to help restaurant owners to find more staff again in order to face up to the shortage of skilled workers.

“Service staff needed urgently”. At the moment, you can see ads like this all over Switzerland. According to an estimation by GastroSuisse, around 30,000 service employees in Switzerland quit their jobs during the pandemic and did not return to work. Businesses are desperate. Especially in view of the business during the holiday season, the only option left to those restaurant owners with a lack of staff is to work more themselves, adjust opening hours or offer fewer tables and smaller menus. However, by doing so, they lose the business that is now urgently needed after two years of pandemic.

Coople and GastroSuisse join forces

Coople tries to counteract this shortage of employees by aiming to win flexible workers for the food service industry. Together with GastroSuisse, they set up a two-day basic course on Service. During this gastronomy training, people interested in working in this field can acquire new skills and refresh old ones. David Bernet, project manager for courses on Service Basics at Coople, explains: “We want to encourage our employees to take a first step, to get a taste of the gastronomy sector and to learn the basics. Of course, not everything can be learned within two days. However, a certain basic knowledge and a good level of quality are ensured.”

The courses are a small contribution to combating the shortage of skilled workers, and providing further training for interested Coopers, i.e., flexible workers who work via the digital platform Coople. The participants of the gastronomy training are people who have not worked in the food service industry before or who want to refresh and deepen their knowledge in this field.

Course participants are introduced to the topics Service and host personality, Preparing and setting the table, Looking after guests from A to Z, Banquet service, Service rules and Taking orders. After successfully completing the course, each participant receives an official certificate from GastroSuisse.

Course participants’ different motivations for further training in gastronomy

At the first basic course, which took place from 26-27 September 2022 at the Hotel Management School Zurich (HFZ), the participants had very different motivations and backgrounds.

For example, 40-year-old Estefanus: he already works part-time in a restaurant in Zurich and has worked 60 jobs via Coople, but wants to learn something new and expand his knowledge, and his goal is to obtain an official, up-to-date certificate

He hopes to get even more jobs by participating in the course because “in Switzerland, certificates and diplomas are very important and help to improve your job opportunities.”

Image of Estefanus H.
Jolanda (58) and Denise (34) both have years of experience in the food service industry. They know the catering business from an early age ― but are looking forward to this course to deepen the basics they have learned intuitively and to close some knowledge gaps. By completing the course, they have proof of their experience and can significantly improve their chances of getting hired.
“I was particularly interested in refreshing my skills and in learning more about wine service; for instance, which side to serve from. Setting the table was also a lot of fun. It’s simply about feeling a bit more confident, even during a banquet, and knowing what it’s all about,” Denise explains.

image of Denise E.
Jolanda, on the other hand, says: “As I mentioned, I have worked in the service industry for many years. But I lack certain basics in fine dining and à la carte service as well as in banquet service. So far, I have simply carried out the tasks as I was shown. “

Image of Jolanda D.
Beata (61) wanted to “really know the ins and outs of gastronomy”. Through the course, she gets the opportunity to ask important questions: “Does it really work the way I was once told or is it officially taught differently? I think it’s still important to have some experience.”

Image of Beata N.

All of the gastronomy training participants we talked to have one thing in common: They were not aware of training opportunities in the sector before the course, and none of them would have taken the course if it had not been funded.

Beata’s answer also shows that this type of training is not only useful for reintegrating older people into the job market and actively counteracting the shortage of skilled workers, but also for increasing the workers’ self-confidence: “I will have to continue working even after retirement. […] At over 60, I am, in fact, already completely written off in the job market. So, I’m happy every time I can fill in somewhere. But of course, it’s of little use to the companies if someone like me comes along and has no idea about the industry without any training.” Why is she attending this course? “I saw this on Coople and thought, this is exactly what I need. […] Now, I’m really happy here.”

For the time being, there are four courses taking place between September and November, offering 100 available spots in total. Depending on the demand for the courses and their success, there will be more courses on gastronomy on the future.

A survey among over 4,000 employees, conducted by Coople in June 2022, also showed that people are interested in further training opportunities: the overwhelming majority of respondents were interested in further education. Find out more about the survey results here.