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Can Australian service standards cut it on the global stage?

WRITTEN BYJames Price | JPAbusiness

Hotel desk bell

Recently, while staying in Melbourne at an internationally recognised hotel, I struck up a conversation with one of the senior waiters in the restaurant.

He was in his mid-20s and mentioned he had Malaysian heritage. He was a former University of Adelaide student, having completed a bachelor’s degree in hospitality just over 12 months ago, and had been working at this hotel since graduating.

I asked what his career plans were. He told me he wanted to gain experience and work up to managing a large hotel, like the one he is working in now. He planned to do that for a few years then, ideally, start his own hotel.

I love to hear ambition like this! Not conceited at all; just a will to strive and reach for heights, and eventually run one’s own business.

Excited for him and his career objectives, I asked: “Where would you do that – Malaysia or Australia, or elsewhere?”

He replied concisely: “Malaysia.”

I queried why that was.

He said: “In Malaysia, the service ethic in hospitality management is very strong and therefore the service requirements, expectations and standards are a lot harsher on the team. As an employee, if you don’t deliver, you don’t have a job.”

From his experience in Australia, workplace expectations are more fluid and flexible. You can get by and retain employment in the industry, even though you might not have a strong and consistent service standard.

What are the implications for us?

Obviously, these comments come from a survey of one, but it got me thinking: what might this attitude mean, more generally, for Australian businesses performing and competing in a global economy?

Also, what might it mean for retaining good employees and eventual potential business owners in our country?

And, depending on how controversial we might wish to be, are Australia’s industrial relations and employment laws condoning poor service standards?

Are Australian business owners desensitised to global service expectations?

A key health factor of a business’ value, and how it builds and maintains its reputation, is consistency in delivering what it does. Are we at risk of operating second-rate businesses in Australia, with value below par as a result?


If you would like advice or support to help grow the value of your business, contact the JPAbusiness team on 02 6360 0360 or 02 9893 1803 for a confidential, initial discussion.

About James Price | JPAbusiness James Price has over 30 years’ experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients. James’ blogs provide business advice for aspiring and current small to mid-sized business owners, operators and managers.