restaurant server with COVID mask

4 Things a Restaurant Can Do to Keep Employees

Daily news reports document the difficulty in hiring restaurant workers. The shortage prevents restaurants from opening or opening fully. With the rapid rise of the Delta variant, many restaurants will open more slowly than once thought. The things that a restaurant can do to keep employees also help in hiring employees.

Is the Difficulty in Hiring Restaurant Workers due to Pandemic Benefits?

Is the difficulty in hiring restaurant workers due solely to the pandemic unemployment benefits as is often suggested? The data is quite mixed when looking at states that ended pandemic unemployment benefits.

The restaurant industry has long had hiring issues-high turnover, small pools of workers, lack of experienced applicants.

Were there hiring issues for restaurants before the pandemic?

Some restaurant workers are thinking long and hard about returning to an industry where pay can be low and uncertain. Isolated behind closed doors, people are rethinking their post-pandemic life. For many, those thoughts include a post-lockdown career change. Therefore, a restaurant must address what a restaurant can do to keep employees.

Restaurant life has always been tough. Long hours, frequent reports of sexism, racism, and safety have long been deterrents. Now, restaurant workers have to tell patrons unwilling to don a mask that they, in fact, must wear a mask. Patrons sometimes treat the worker as if they had invented and imposed the rule to deliberately ruin the patron’s evening. Violent outbursts have been reported weekly 

QSR magazine article states that labor was not humming along pre-crisis and you have safety concerns added today. The rise of the gig economy, wage rate debates, the shrinking number of teens in the workforce all stirred up staffing issues before the global crisis dropped in. Restaurants report that the biggest issue is staffing back-of-house roles.

What can restaurants do to solve the hiring issue?

Raising wages—which is happening—is one solution. But research often shows that working conditions and working environment are important reasons for a worker to accept and remain in a job.

Successful restaurants are doing 4 things that improve the recruitment and retention of good employees.

  1. Investing in Training and Development
  2. Allowing Flexible Scheduling
  3. Offering All Shift Bonuses
  4. Fostering a Positive Work Environment

First and foremost is training and development. Chipotle has changed its onboarding process to include more time and more detailed training so new hires are more confident in their responsibilities, make better decisions, and ensure their own safety. Many successful companies offer ongoing training so employees can grow their skills, take on additional responsibilities and advance their careers. The value of training cannot be overstated. It makes for satisfied workers, shows you care as an employer, supports retention of staff and recruitment. This is a big attraction for today’s workers.

Secondly, flexible scheduling is attractive to young employees, given their lifestyles and young children. Restaurants need to figure out how to make their scheduling match up with the desires of future hires. This is not easy but is a big opportunity for those who can figure it out.

Thirdly, all shift bonuses for meeting and exceeding performance goals are a great motivator. Financial bonuses as well as additional time off work well with younger workers.

Lastly, the work environment is paramount. Train and reward your managers for creating an environment that is positive, which rewards performance, and is safe. Safe means safe from discrimination (sexism and racism) and safe to work in.

Back-of-the-house safety is likely an issue in the problem of hiring back-of-house staff. Restaurants can be short-staffed due to a slip, fall, or burn most of which involve cooking grease. Automating your used cooking oil handling is the most efficient way to ensure kitchen safety. 

Bottom Line in What a Restaurant Can do to Keep Employees

The bottom line is that waiting for unemployment benefits to expire is not a panacea for the difficulty in hiring restaurant workers. Changing the environment, investing in training and development, and a motivating and equitable rewards system is paramount.

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