The beauty of the hospitality industry for young people in particular – apart from having to give up your weekend to serve other people who get to enjoy their Saturdays and Sundays, and not get paid proper penalty rates for the pleasure – is that work can be relatively easy to find and fit around study.
The transient nature of work in the industry, however, can mean that as staff come and go, businesses don’t have time to train employees. Looking to make it easier is Melbourne-founded Typsy, founded by Jonathan Plowright.
As Plowright explained, though there are over 250 million people working in the global hospitality industry, making it one of the fastest-growing in the world, there is a shortage of people qualified with the skills required to fill current roles – not to mention the tens of millions more the industry is projected to add over the next decade.
“To put in context, food service businesses already have their fair of challenges on the people side. Many segments of the workforce are highly transient, with workers under 25 years of age often using hospitality as a stop gap; staff turnover rates in food and beverage venues average 85 percent, meaning if I employ 100 people I’m rehiring 85 within the next 12 months,” Plowright said.
“If you’re posting a job ad for a server and all you get are applications from people with little to no experience and you have a shift to fill on Friday night, you have little choice but to hire what you have available. This means people are often thrown on the floor and promoted into job roles they haven’t yet learnt the skills for.”
To add to the challenges, businesses most often don’t have the time to create training content, with staff simply being thrown into the thick of it and trained on the job.
Enter Typsy, which looks to make it easy for hospitality businesses to automate training by helping them schedule, manage, and measure it via the provision of video lessons and courses.
The idea came to Plowright over the course of running a business called Upside, which provided finance and insurance services to the hospitality industry.
Talking to owners and managers, Plowright realised that among their biggest pain points are finding and retaining trained staff and, familiar with Lynda, he decided to create a version of sorts for the hospitality industry. Enlisting the help of a staff member, they created a course focused on Trip Advisor.
“No one came running at us telling us that the course was any good; in fact, I’d be be surprised if more than a dozen people ever watched it, but the moment I saw the footage it was game on,” Plowright said.
Like any new venture, Plowright said, there were a range of obstacles staring him in the face and “probably lots of reasons not to do it”, but he was pushed along by the conviction that his idea would be brought to life in some way, no matter what.
“Whether I create Typsy or not, this will happen. It simply made too much sense not to exist in the world, so while there were lots of risks, I didn’t feel like there was any doubt we could create something useful,” he said.
A few months later, Plowright had sold Upside and, trading in calculators for cameras, he said, started filming; within 12 months Typsy had shot 150 video lessons.
With no background in the space – whether it be with film, education, online learning, talent management, or what have you – Plowright said Typsy worked to bring on consultants and mentors with industry experience, even tracking down someone who had worked as head of enterprise sales at Lynda.
“From this sometimes you get new ideas or techniques but often it’s just reassurance that you’re walking the right path, that the path is long and hard and just to hang in there,” Plowright said.
Typsy has over the last couple of years created courses for what it calls “the whole of house”, incorporating a venue’s head office, front of house, and back of house.
“The simple premise from day one has been, let’s go to owners, managers, and staff and just ask them what their biggest challenges are, and that’s what we’ve done,” Plowright said.
The startup initially set out to film instructors in a studio, with this being cheaper and easier to coordinate, before realising videos looked better in-situ, with instructors taking a show, don’t tell approach.
“The best way to do this is to get on location and be a fly on the wall to the world’s best instructors rather than a staged or highly scripted approach. The most important thing is to just keep coming back to basics: why is the course required? Is it relevant? Who is the audience? What are is the learning outcome/s? And then making sure the decisions we make along the way all go to support the learning outcomes and audience.”
Typsy is priced at US$9/month for individual users, with businesses charged US$139/month per venue, with up to 50 staff per venue.
Individuals can create a profile and complete single video lessons to earn skill credits, or complete a course to earn a certificate, with their learning achievements then showcased on their profile.
Businesses, meanwhile, can create training schedules to send to staff, with the Typsy dashboard then allowing them to measure how staff are doing. Businesses can send out Typsy courses or upload their own training videos for staff.
“Now if a restaurant wants to explain their new wine menu to staff, they can just film on their iphone, upload it to Typsy, and in a few minutes have it scheduled out and being watched on staff mobile devices,” Plowright said.
Beyond individual and business customers, Typsy has grown by making its way into hospitality schools, earlier this year signing on the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland.
“Schools like EHL and many other hospitality schools throughout the world are attracted to our content to use for blended learning with their hospitality curriculum; it’s a strong fit. Many of the institutions either don’t have strong video training options to support their students or it is outdated and not engaging,” Plowright said.
“We aim to engage and make learning fun, simple and easy to retain the knowledge. They can use their [learning management system] system and add Typsy videos in as an easy way to offer the content to their students. All students still have access to the Typsy app so they can also watch as much of the additional Typsy content as they like.”
With Australia and the US currently the company’s biggest markets, Plowright said his aim is to launch sales teams in the US and Europe as Typsy looks to hit its goal of signing up over 1,000 new venues in 2018.
Image: Jonathan Plowright. Source: Supplied.