What is “culture,” and how does it determine the success of the hospitality industry?

Almost 350 Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association members filled the Pacific Room of the remodeled Seaside Civic and Convention Center Tuesday for the industry panel “Adapting and Winning in a New Hospitality Landscape.” 

“Culture to me is the way we interact with each other,” Ken Henson, director of restaurant operations at Pelican Brewing Company, said. “It’s the way we interact. It’s our core values. When everyone understands your core values and treats everyone with dignity and respect.”

Panel members analyzed an industry landscape of rising minimum wages, new regulations around safety, shrinking labor pool, increasing inventory and competition.

“We’re at a time in the hospitality landscape we need to adjust,” moderator Seth Gruschow said in introducing panel members.

In a business that used to get seven to 10 applicants for every job, now they may receive only one.

“That number is only going down,” Gruschow said. “If we don’t make changes, we’re going to be dead on the vine.”

Goals include building a corporate culture; using technology to advance profits and improve the guest experience; and developing future leaders.

Gruschow urged organization members to "join together and be one industry.”

“One in three Americans get their first job in the restaurant industry,” ORLA Chief Executive Officer Jason Brandt told the audience. “No other industry has more minority-owned or women-led owned ownership than the restaurant industry. I can’t think of any other industry that allows that succession from dishwasher to executive leadership. There’s so much opportunity.”

For the city of Seaside, the event was considered an opportunity too — this year’s event is the first ORLA convention held here since the early 2000s.

“This is a great way for us to show the state just what our city has to offer,” Brian Owen, executive director of Seaside’s Chamber of Commerce said. “We’ve got restaurants and hoteliers from across the state. They’re now first-hand experiencing what we offer. We can partner with these organizations — and everybody’s loving it — except for the weather.”

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