Leisure and hospitality workers are quitting at the highest rates of any industry. About 1 million people left the workforce in November 2021 alone, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Why? Seasonality, low wages, and monotonous work are among the reasons for churn in the hospitality industry, as well as a perceived lack of career advancement.
So what should hotel companies do? Perhaps look to services like Qwick, a startup that matches workers with hosting contracts. Qwick announced today that it has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Tritium Partners, with participation from current investors Album VC, Kickstart, Desert Angels and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund.
Jamie Baxter co-founded Qwick in 2017 with Chris Loeffler. Baxter was previously CTO of the Risk and Financial Services segment at Willis Towers Watson, where he oversaw product and software development.
With Qwick, Baxter sought to create a platform that connects service industry workers to restaurant shifts in real time. Qwick uses a matching algorithm that takes into account factors such as distance, availability of “VIP” workers and supply to fill gigs from hospitality businesses, including stadiums, retirement homes and catering of business.
“The hospitality industry has been plagued by reputations for low retention rates, low wages, and poor management and working conditions for decades,” Baxter told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Qwick aims to tackle labor issues in the industry and reshape what it means to work in hospitality by creating value for its professionals and providing them with a living wage.”
To register for Qwick, workers must complete a profile and watch a five-minute virtual orientation. Once vetted, they receive notifications for open shifts.
“Qwick requires incoming professionals to go through an orientation that includes a one-on-one interview,” Baxter said. “Before being granted access to the platform, all Qwick professionals have been certified and vetted for their experience, professionalism and commitment to service.”
Baxter also says that Qwick uses a two-way five-star rating system to “ensure continued quality and reliability between professionals and businesses”, although it should be noted that similar rating systems in gig markets have been shown to exacerbate prejudice against minority workers,
Qwick is akin to startups like Stint, Flexy, Indeed Flex, Gig, Limber, and Baristas on Tap, which provide short-term workers to companies in a number of industries. Advocates of the platforms say they are making hospitality a more financially viable profession by increasing job flexibility. But a recent article by Eater revealed that some workers in hospitality startups earn at home around the local minimum wage and could be forced to take long unpaid commutes. Critics allege that the platforms could leave companies with less budget for recruitment and training, encouraging them to replace full-time positions with temporary jobs.
Some employers in the hospitality sector have signaled that they are willing to hire temporary workers, potentially at the expense of salaried employees. In 2017 and 2018, Marriott and Hilton teamed up with Airbnb and the TechNet coalition (which includes Uber, Lyft, and Taskrabbit) to push for a federal bill that would classify anyone who finds work through a platform. online as an independent contractor.
Baxter pushes back against the idea that Qwick is a force for evil, arguing that it offers workers the “freedom” to work their schedules.
“Thousands of business partners across the United States rely on Qwick to end understaffing… [We] only partner with reputable companies known for treating their staff well and giving professionals the agency to work where and when they want,” Baxter said. “Hundreds of thousands of industry professionals have downloaded our app and signed up to work shifts through Qwick.”
Qwick workers are paid an average of $9 more than the minimum wage in the cities where they work, Baxter added. He also noted that Qwick allows companies to hire gig workers for traditional off-platform jobs at no additional cost, unlike some gig labor platforms that charge recruiting and hiring fees.
In any case, the demand for Qwick’s service seems very robust on the employers’ side. After a tough time during the pandemic – Qwick was forced to lay off 70% of the team and Baxter stopped taking salary – the business has more than recovered, with revenue up 10,000% in the three years, according to Baxter.
And for better or worse, the gig economy shows no signs of shrinking. The Pew Research Center reports that 16% of Americans have completed work through an online gig platform. And Mastercard predicts that the number of gig workers worldwide will increase to 78 million in 2023, from 43 million in 2018.
Qwick actively works with more than 7,000 businesses in 23 metropolitan areas, and the platform has facilitated more than 500,000 shifts so far, Baxter added.
Qwick investors, for their part, seem confident in Qwick’s long-term trajectory, whether or not it translates into the best outcomes for workers. In an emailed statement, Tritium Partners Managing Partner David Lack said: “Qwick’s impressive growth and track record of success with its innovative hotel solution, even in a particularly challenging few years for industry, indicate that the company has truly changed the way people work. ”
To date, Arizona-based Qwick has raised $69.1 million in capital. The company has just over 270 employees, which Baxter says will grow to around 300 before the end of the year.