It’s been three months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the United States, and since then, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single person not affected in one form or another by the pandemic. A record 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in just the last two weeks of March.
Especially hard hit were hospitality and gig workers, of which a large percentage cannot cover an unexpected expense without selling, borrowing or defaulting. But food preparation companies and medical facilities are overwhelmed by the demand.
Jitjatjo, an on-demand staffing provider for the hospitality industry, is attempting to help both sides of the equation and provide relief to thousands of displaced hospitality workers.
The company has now started a hashtag (#HireHospitality) to raise awareness of its mission and shine a light on the hardworking, multitalented members of the hospitality community, who Tim Chatfield, founder of Jitjatjo, says can play a crucial role in the battle against COVID-19.
Connect spoke with Chatfield about his company’s work.
Could you first give us a sense of what #HireHospitality is about?
We started promoting the #HireHospitality hashtag as a way to lean into the labor displacement that’s going on at the moment. We built a platform that essentially bridges the gap between supply and demand to redeploy hospitality workers to areas of need in the community.
What makes Jitjatjo the right entity to help out?
Jitjatjo’s mission is human betterment and there are so many people that need help in so many ways right now. We believe we have a civic obligation to help. We are working to get people working. We already have over 10,000 members in the Jitjatjo talent community, plus a platform that can rapidly deploy workers to the locations they’re needed.
Jitjatjos platform prioritizes talent based on their proximity to the work location to limit their commute and therefore limit their exposure to COVID-19. We also launched COVID-19 training and accreditation on March 7 and have trained thousands of workers on how to minimize their risk of contracting and spreading the disease.
What’s been the most surprising thing about this campaign?
First and foremost, the incredible passion and enthusiasm of the amazing team powering the #HireHospitality campaign to spread the word.
I was also blown away watching President Trump talk about the devastation of the hospitality industry from the Rose Garden, naming industry heavyweights Wolfgang Puck, Jean Gorge and Daniel Boulud.
What are the industries hiring at this time?
We are providing cooks and other back-of-house staff, like general utilities, porters and dishwashers to permanent and temporary hospitals. We are providing pickers and packers to producers shipping farm-to-table food. We also see opportunities for hospitality workers to help in warehousing and distribution of essential household goods, together with grocery stores and supermarkets. We are also ready and willing to help the government, NGOs and not-for-profits.
What’s been the response so far?
The preliminary feedback we have received has been positive and we have already generated over 1,000 shifts for hospitality workers.
What are some challenges you’ve noticed throughout this process?
Hospitality workers are going to have it tough, and it’s about to get tougher. Many have already gone weeks without a paycheck and are not prepared. We have to showcase the transferable skills of hospitality workers to companies, industries and organizations that would not necessarily have them top of mind.
In what ways will the hospitality industry change after this?
I think it’s going to be a long road to recovery. Surviving through this is the first priority for many businesses right now. I'm not sure as to what percentage of businesses are going to make it, but I think those that survive will move to more flexible labor models to optimize their staffing levels and align them with demand. The idea of transferring a skill set and experience to a new industry will likely grow, as people look for work opportunities and ways to maintain paychecks.
It’s a tough road ahead, but the people in the hospitality industry are fighters. They’re committed and passionate. As a collective, we can all rally behind #HireHospitality as something bigger than ourselves, something that is doing good for the industry and community.
Where can people find you to get connected with your services?
They can go to our website and follow the steps, or they can go straight to the app store and download the app. That will put them in touch with one of our client activation teams, who will have a conversation with them to understand what their needs are. And if they're in Manhattan, we can have someone on-site within an hour.