23yo set to become hotel chain's youngest franchisee

At age 23, Nikita Seth is set to become a franchisee of a new hotel based in Auckland's Mt Eden.
At age 23, Nikita Seth is set to become a franchisee of a new hotel based in Auckland's Mt Eden. Photo credit: Supplied.

A 23-year-old set to become a franchisee of one of the country's leading hotel chains says she'll start by getting the basics right.

It comes as the hospitality industry emerges from over a year of uncertainty, the impact of COVID-19 leading to increased compliance costs and cash flow pressures.

And now those pressures have moved to staffing. Restaurant Association president Mike Egan saying in July that with 20,000 workers needed over the next five years, the current staffing shortage "is the worst in 40 years".

For 23-year-old Nikita Seth, a career in medicine was her first choice. But that didn't work out as she'd imagined. She switched gears to study a Bachelor of Business, majoring in employment relations and human resources. And while borders remain closed, in a huge leap of faith, she's now set to take on a hotel franchise.

Seth is set to become the youngest ever franchisee of Quest, in which she'll run a new hotel based in Auckland's Mt Eden. Franchisees put money in upfront and own and operate the business, sharing in the profits.

Realising a business qualification doesn't prepare her for "actual business", she says her first priority will be on the hotel's operations, before tailoring the experience for visitors.

"I want to get the basics right and the experience to be as seamless as possible for guests before moving onto providing that unique factor," Seth said.

After uncertainty during COVID-19 and with borders still closed, some would consider her move ambitious, especially at such a young age.

But having worked part-time at her father's hotel while studying, she says her biggest hurdle so far was understanding the regulations and systems required to run a business. She also initially plans to use her father as a mentor.

"One piece of advice he gave me is that goodwill is the most important factor for running a business… practice goodwill and success will follow," Seth said.

In the absence of international travellers, Seth says she plans to market the business to local small businesses, as well as people travelling domestically for work.

"I believe there is enough demand for corporate travel just within New Zealand for the next few years to be able to sustain business," Seth added.

Restaurants Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said feedback from several hotels which were among its members was that things are better than a year ago - but are still nowhere near pre-COVID levels.

People starting out in hospitality are advised to keep learning and look for professional development options.

"You'll work your way up the ranks in hospitality and it is possible to do this quickly," Bidois said.

"Be on time and if you come with a positive 'can do' attitude you will go far."

Recent monthly survey results showed 42 percent of Restaurant Association members had a better trading month in June, compared to June 2020. But the biggest issue was people: 92 percent said they were struggling to find key staff.

Seth is set to start as the first franchisee of the Mt Eden Quest hotel, which opens in August.