NEW YORK—By April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the accommodation and foodservice sector had lost more than 7.6 million jobs since January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With recovery moving at a snail’s pace all over the country, there is no timetable for those jobs to return, if ever.
Locally based technology firm Jitjatjo, whose on-demand staffing platform leverages artificial and empathic intelligence to provide instantly vetted talent to hotels, restaurants and catering companies, launched the #HireHospitality campaign to help find jobs for these displaced hospitality workers in New York.
“Our #HireHospitality campaign is all about recognizing the versatility of hospitality workers, and combining their passion for creating positive experiences for guests and community members with their need to earn an income so they can feed themselves and their families,” said Tim Chatfield, co-founder/CEO, Jitjatjo. “Jitjatjo’s mission is human betterment, and there are so many people who need help in so many ways right now. We launched the campaign in late March to spotlight the fact that hospitality workers can play a crucial role in this battle against COVID-19. We believe we have a civic obligation to help. We are working to get people working.”
He added, “We launched the website to help build a community that is able to support and champion furloughed hospitality workers. To become part of the program, displaced hospitality workers in need of employment can register via the Jitjatjo Flex app.” The app is available on the Apple App Store and Android’s Google Play Store.
According to Chatfield, as of May 11, 673 workers have been placed with new jobs, with many back-of-house staff (cooks, dishwashers, porters, etc.) finding positions at field hospitals.
“We have also had success with front-of-house hospitality professionals, who are applying their training, experience and passion for making people feel good in new environments,” he said. “We are starting to see demand increase for cleaning/disinfectant technicians to help businesses prepare to reopen and ensure guest safety.”
Jitjajo’s platform prioritizes talent based on his or her proximity to the work location to limit the commute exposure to the virus. Chatfield noted that staff members have been placed at the Javits Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the new field hospital development at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Gotham Greens and The Grange Bar & Eatery.
For potential employers, the process for procuring staff through Jitjatjo is as simple as entering the number of people required in the firm’s Ondemand by Jitjatjo app (also available at the App Store and Google Play Store).
“Our empathic intelligence automatically identifies the best available talent and ensures they show up on time to do the work requested,” said Chatfield. “All talent available through our Ondemand app are W2 workers and thoroughly screened, including skill assessments, interviews, reference checks, background checks and E-Verification. As a W-2 employer, we take on the fiduciary liability of being an employer. This includes assuming the liability for all state and federal payroll taxes, worker comp, background checks, new-hire reporting, etc. In this unusual time, we see our role in the flexible labor model as being useful to hotels.”
The CEO noted that, when the pandemic took a firm hold in the city, “our first step was to reach out to our hotel and hospitality partners who were using us for temporary staffing to encourage them to help their furloughed staff find temporary work through our Flex app. Forty-two percent of gig workers can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense without selling, borrowing or defaulting. Watching the industry shut down indefinitely, we knew the financial hardship would be great, and we knew we could help find financial relief for some, even if it was temporary.”
He added, “Many of our hotel and hospitality clients are working through reopening plans, and we are happy to see that plan include the reinstatement of many furloughed employees. What we are also seeing is that many are in a position where their business model is modified or changed altogether, and there’s an increased need for certain kinds of talent and more flexible labor models. That’s where we are supporting most.”
Jitjatjo is also offering free COVID-19 awareness and hygiene training on the #HireHospitality website, which can be accessed by “anyone who wants to take it,” said Chatfield. “This training positions the talent with a holistic understanding of COVID-19 and best practices for safety as they take on roles both in and out of hospitality. The training itself is virtual, and includes a simple Q&A process to ensure participants have the knowledge to power their safety decisions.”
Chatfield doesn’t see the initiative ending anytime soon, especially with unemployment payments set to fall after July 31.
“It will be important for hospitality workers seeking employment to expand their horizons and consider applying their skill sets to new opportunities, as hospitality will take longer to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic than many other industries,” he said. “We have partnered with AthenaWise to offer free access to its dynamic workshops designed to empower job seekers. These workshops include persuasive resume writing and remote interview training. This is just the beginning of what’s to come for this campaign—and the full impact it can have for the future of the hospitality industry’s workers.”