The rise of the gig economy: What does it mean for hospitality?

For most people the word ‘gig’ brings up images of musicians and live performances, but in recent years it has a whole new meaning with the phrase ‘gig economy’ which is defined as ‘an environment where short-term engagements with people, products and services is common.’

Let’s pick that apart a little…

Freelancers who already provide a service to their clients through short term engagements will already be familiar with this type of work; through the likes of Elance and UpWork, but it’s about much more than just freelancers. There’s a huge bigger picture to be aware of.

The gig economy is about transforming the ways in which existing sectors work to allow access to people, products and services on-demand, 24/7.

For the optimistic among us, it lends itself well to fostering an influx of entrepreneurs and innovation across many sectors — take the ways in which the taxi industry has been revolutionised with the likes of Uber as an example. Uber provide an on-demand taxi service accessed solely through an app, with people like you and I providing our vehicles as taxis. For the customer, the taxi is there on-demand whenever it’s needed. For the worker, they can work whenever they want to earn extra cash (providing there is enough demand for a taxi).

Uber has changed the way the taxi industry works across the globe

Likewise, services like AirBnB have shaken up the hotel industry. With over 1 million hosts worldwide, AirBnB can offer a place to stay, often in people’s houses, in locations all over the world. For the customer, they can open an app and find a place to stay on pretty much any street in a big city quickly and easily. For people like you and I, we can let out our house (or rooms within it) to guests, earning money each and every time we do.

With services like Uber, AirBnB and the many others like them, the lines between personal life and professional life are becoming increasingly blurred. It’s becoming almost easier to work in this way. You could do the school run at 8.30am, become a driver from 9–3pm (working for someone like Uber), collect your children at 3.30pm and let out your spare room in the evening to a traveller with a check-in time of 4pm onwards (via something like AirBnB).

Your phone is the key to opening up the gig economy to yourself
The gig economy is not only changing the way people access services, it’s much more than that, it’s changing the way people like you and I make our money.

While it is still mostly “the norm” to have a 9–5 job and bring in a regular, steady income, it’s now becoming easier for people to bring in supplementary income too. For those who are entrepreneurial minded, it’s becoming their only income — selling items on Etsy, delivering meals in your spare time via Deliveroo, and picking up extra shifts using apps like ShiftGig.

“Our riders are able to log in to work with us whenever they want — allowing them to fit their work around their life rather than their life around their work. The flexible work we offer means that our riders are their own bosses — they can choose not to work if it doesn’t fit in with their own schedule, wear whatever branding they want and work for multiple companies at the same time”
Dan Warne, UK MD at Deliveroo, on the topic of amendments to their worker agreement. Find out more in this news article.

Hospitality and the gig economy

In the hospitality sector, there has been a rise of on-demand job apps in recent years — offering people the option of signing up and applying for short term hospitality jobs via a few clicks. Venues posts their shifts (or ‘gigs’) and people apply to fill the role, all via an app. This works well for students who want to pick up extra shifts to pay for upcoming holidays or nights out with friends — but it also works well for professionals who have a 9–5 and want to work a few hours per week in a lively, vibrant place for the atmosphere and/or some extra pocket money.

People can now find temporary hospitality work using apps

The gig economy itself presents an exciting era for hospitality. With the seasonality of the industry, the peaks and troughs in business levels, I think the gig economy will (and already is in places) revolutionise the way the industry currently operates.

Over time, I think the traditional ‘casual worker’ employed by hospitality brands today will disappear in favour of a ‘bank of staff’ shared between multiple venues. Maybe even shared across different companies.

The chances are that technology will be a big part of this but what’s not yet clear is where this technology will sit — will traditional agencies jump up and start creating apps, will the likes of Syft and Rota become that platform, or will there be some kind of aggregate platform where all agencies can tie themselves into?

We’re looking at the latter with Job Squad. We’re creating a single, go-to place for temporary staffing, where venues only have one touch point to access all temporary workers looking for work — whether that be as agency workers, or the current ‘casuals’ …

What do you think of the gig economy and how it might affect the hospitality industry? Let me know!