Hungry for Opportunities

Lettuce Eat

Pop-up restaurant concept serves up new staffing solutions for hospitality employers.

Australia’s hospitality industry continues to experience a severe skills shortage. But as cafés and restaurants struggle to find the staff they need, Omnia Inclusive is actively spreading the word that an amazing skilled workforce already exists!
Last Thursday, September 1, an innovative new pop-up restaurant called ‘Lettuce Eat’ triumphantly served its first diners at the Dougherty Community Centre in Chatswood – with lip-licking dignitaries including the Mayor of Willoughby, Tanya Taylor, and State Member for Willoughby, Tim James.
It’s all part of an Australian-first cooking and nutrition training program run by Omnia Inclusive, created to empower young people with disabilities with valuable workplace and hospitality skills.
Sixteen enthusiastic young adult students were involved in the inaugural pop-up event in Chatswood. Ranging from 17-25 years of age, they live with a variety of diverse characterises including autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities.
During the 12-week program, the students were immersed in all facets of working in hospitality. This included naming their restaurant, creating menus, learning cooking and serving skills, nutrition and portion sizing, purchasing and pricing, money handling and workplace health & safety.
With planning for more pop-up events already underway, the program is seen as a critical way to provide young adults with real-life experience in hospitality settings, whilst also offering a ready-made solution for employers to address current industry staff shortages.
Like a mini-version of MasterChef, their training culminated in them delivering the entire pop-up restaurant experience themselves, with the background support of the venue manager and Omnia Inclusive Youth Diversity trainers. Judging by the smiles on the students’ faces (and their well-sated diners) it was a huge success!
Speaking at the Lettuce Eat launch, Omnia Inclusive CEO Deborrah Lambourne said hiring people with disabilities needs to be a part of every business manager’s conversation: “Here we have young adults who have not only got what it takes to succeed in the hospitality industry, they also have the desire. That’s a powerful combination when you’re looking to solve a workplace skills shortage crisis.

Speaking with Dan’s colleagues, this is a common theme. He’s a popular crew member, but perhaps his greatest fan is his current manager, Kodie, who has known him for around ten years. “I went to school with Dan,” she explains. “We were in the same year together, and then afterwards we were both employed here at McDonald’s Edgeworth. I’ve essentially grown my own career with Dan.”

“Research shows that people with disabilities not only stay longer in jobs,” she continued. “They are punctual, take fewer sick days and improve company morale and overall workplace culture. So, why wouldn’t they form part of this important conversation?”

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