Wednesday. 14/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Markus Hippi

Tired of waiting

As restaurants around the world reopen after lockdowns of varying lengths, many have gradually come to realise that things are not as they were before. It’s now much more difficult to find staff, since many workers have left the industry and moved to careers and businesses that were less affected by coronavirus.

In the US, restaurateurs are reporting unprecedented staff shortages. Large numbers of employees are quitting, exhausted by having to police customers reluctant to follow policies on wearing masks and social distancing, while still desperately in need of their tips and putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus themselves. In the UK, staffing problems are amplified by the effects of Brexit. The country’s hospitality industry has long been reliant on EU workers, many of whom have returned home, feeling less welcomed by a UK that is perceived to have turned inwards. And that’s not to mention the added bureaucracy and red tape that has followed the UK’s departure from the EU.

Restaurateurs will need government support to fix some of these problems – but they also need to improve what they offer their staff. The question is about much more than pay. It is about how to promote hospitality as a real, long-term career option rather than something you do when you’re young while looking for something better; how to motivate staff and help them develop and pursue their passions; and how to help them find a work-life balance. Put simply, this is a time when hospitality employees should feel more appreciated and valued. And maybe it’s up to us as customers to pitch in too: the next time you experience great service or hospitality, don’t take it for granted and show some appreciation.

Catch Markus Hippi hosting ‘The Menu’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / South Africa

Power struggle

South Africa has deployed its military in an effort to quell civil unrest in two of the country’s most densely populated provinces, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng (pictured). What started as a political protest triggered by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma last week has escalated into widespread looting and lawlessness, fuelled by general frustration over inequality and coronavirus restrictions. The riots have so far resulted in more than 30 deaths, dozens of arrests and extensive damage to businesses. President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned “acts of public violence of a kind rarely seen in the history of [South Africa’s] democracy”. He called for calm and warned that the rioting has already caused disruption to vaccine rollouts and supply chains. But his options are limited at the moment. “This has run out of control,” South African journalist Ferial Haffajee told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “Over the next few days we’ll see whether it can be brought under order.”

Image: Alamy

Transport / Baltics

Station to station

Rail Baltica – the organisation behind a proposed 870km rail link between Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – has commissioned a consortium of architects and infrastructure experts to begin planning for seven new stations in cities including Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius.

Key to this will be a €195,000 study looking at how newly renovated stations elsewhere, such as Paris’s Austerlitz and Helsinki’s Pasila (pictured), drive business in their respective cities and function as successful public spaces too. And while it’s a smart move for Rail Baltica to seek inspiration, it’s important that its new hubs aren’t carbon copies of continental counterparts. Success depends on how well the new stations work with their respective cities’ social, cultural and economic factors. It would be wise then for the study to look inward too – at the new and thriving market square near Tallinn’s existing main station, for example. The result of such an approach? International stations that feel right at home.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Southeast Asia

Pressing concerns

Democracy activists in Myanmar will be hoping for some strong words of support today, as US secretary of state Antony Blinken meets foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for the first time. Myanmar has been mired in violence since a military coup d’état in February and Asean’s five-point plan to resolve the crisis, agreed in April, has so far come to nothing. Singapore has called for greater urgency but other issues are likely to dominate today’s video conference, which will be joined by Myanmar’s military-appointed representative. Coronavirus vaccinations top the region’s concerns, while the US is focused on China, which hosted Asean foreign ministers last month. On Sunday, Blinken reaffirmed Washington’s defence pact with the Philippines, marking the fifth anniversary of an international ruling that refuted Beijing’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea. With Asean’s member states in lockdown and American minds at sea, Myanmar’s slide towards civil war might get only a passing mention.

Image: Courtesy of Channel 4

Culture / UK

Primetime suspect

UK TV’s free-to-air Channel 4 has announced the launch of a platform devoted solely to true crime programming in a move to keep pace with streaming giants. The genre is experiencing a wave of popularity due to series by the likes of Amazon and Netflix, so this could prove to be a shrewd move. True Crime On 4 will launch this autumn across Channel 4 with a format similar to its Walter Presents platform. There will be new shows every fortnight and about 150 hours of programming available on the station’s popular streaming service, All 4. According to TV critic and broadcaster Scott Bryan, this foray into the streaming giant’s territory is a positive sign that television channels are not consigned to their fate. “They still have an advantage over Netflix and Amazon by the fact that they have live viewing,” Bryan tells the Monocle Minute. “You only have to look at viewing figures for football and [BBC drama] Line of Duty to know that linear broadcasting is not over yet.”

Hear more from Bryan on this morning’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

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Fernando Augusto Pacheco and Georgie Rogers join Robert Bound to round up some of the best summer album releases by the likes of Brazilian Marisa Monte, South African star Muzi and Canadian songwriter Martha Wainwright.

Monocle Films / Sweden

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Norrbotten in Sweden is blessed with natural resources but more recently has been turning heads because of its growing roster of innovative start-ups. We bear witness to the region's effort to change heavy industries into clean businesses.

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