The labor shortage is top-of-mind for just about everyone in the restaurant industry right now. In November alone, a whopping 1 million people from the hospitality industry (i.e. restaurants and hotels) left their jobs, which equates to about 1 in every 16 such positions.
That means that, if you run a restaurant concept, it’s possible that almost every one of your locations could have lost one or more employees in a single month. As long as the labor shortage persists and restaurant employees recognize how in demand they really are, it will be crucial for executives, franchisors, and franchisees to do everything they can to get top talent in the door and keep them there long-term.
But how do you lure, and more importantly, keep top restaurant talent? 5 key tips can serve as a guidepost to solving your restaurant labor woes.
1. All About the Bennies
The main thing you can do to attract and keep top talent? Provide them with a working environment they’ll have a hard time saying ‘no’ to.
There has never been a better time to conduct a careful analysis of wages and available benefits. Depending on the size of your concept, this analysis may include one region or several.
It’s quite possible and even likely that persons with a role in one area of the country may not get the same wages as an individual in that same role in another area of the country, or even the state. This is to be expected given differences in labor markets, cost of living, and legislation. A careful market analysis can help accurately shape your wage strategy.
Your analysis will leave you in a position to command a better talent pool through higher wages and better benefits than what your competitors offer. While these can initially seem like they’ll have a negative impact on the bottom line, your ability to keep talented individuals within your company can quickly overcome the sunk costs.
Benefits to consider include:
- Paid time off, and more of it than previously offered
- Health, dental, vision, and life insurance
- Education assistance
- Retirement planning and contributions
- Parental leave
- Bereavement pay
A restaurant concept that offers these things, combined with a heightened wage, can find their labor shortage mysteriously disappearing.
2. Flexibility and Compassion
Tied hand in hand with increased wages and benefits is a similar upscaling of the somewhat indefinable metric of compassion.
Concepts that create an understanding, safe, and welcoming environment for their team members will have a much easier time recruiting and keeping the best and brightest.
For some concepts, this can be a distinct cultural shift. Restaurants are by their very nature high-stress environments, and that stress can bleed into operations in a way that’s not conducive to long-term wellbeing. The concept that puts in the work to demonstrate compassion even through stress will win over its employees (and those employees will be set up to provide a premium customer experience too).
One concrete way to show compassion? Flexibility in scheduling. Put policies in place to accommodate employees who run into emergencies. This is especially crucial when COVID and other issues can cause team members to miss days and even weeks of shifts.
You can also set up restaurants in a way that make team members feel safe. Encourage sanitization and cleanliness practices throughout all aspects of operations. Ask, compel or require employees and customers to wear masks. You can even train your managers in conflict resolution for when patrons or employees disagree about mask-wearing or other issues.
Steps like these foster a culture that top talent will want to be a part of.
3. Clear Paths to Growth
A further demonstration of flexibility and compassion lies in your willingness to promote from within when positions become available.
Some concepts may be doing this without actually codifying the process. In this scenario, it’s on managers to recognize employees who are over-performing and reward them accordingly, while it’s on executives and other leaders to recognize franchisees and others in corporate operations.
This works to a certain extent, but it also has the potential to create blind spots. The most attractive companies to work for are those that have highly visible, highly documented paths to growth. This can include a customized internal application process, an emphasis on certifications, degrees, and other means of continuing education, and leadership seminars that prepare individuals from all parts of the company to take on added responsibilities.
When you implement plans like these, it shows team members at all levels of your organization that their work will be rewarded in the long-term. They’ll think twice about leaving because they know there’s a long and prosperous future that awaits them within your concept.
4. Recruit like Your Brand Depends on It
Sometimes even the most well-intentioned policies and compassionate environment may not get you the results you need if there is truly not a large enough labor pool.
This means you’re going to have to recruit like your concept depends on it (because, quite frankly, it does). Job fairs, outreach to local colleges and recruitment centers, and advertising can get your concept in front of an audience that’s receptive to the opportunities you have to offer.
When expanding the visibility of your brand and the fact that you’re hiring, it’s important to take note of any benefits you may have recently added, including the things mentioned above. These are the sorts of value-adds that will bring you applicants and ensure that those applicants turn into successful employees.
During the recruiting process, make sure that applying, interviewing, and onboarding are all as streamlined and recruit-friendly as possible. Gone are the days when an applicant could be expected to wait weeks to hear if they got the job. You need to condense that timeframe as much as possible or you might find that the person you’re looking to hire has already accepted a job elsewhere.
This advice also applies to your executive ranks: the supply of jobs at these levels also outstrips the current demand, meaning during the time you wait to make an offer to your next director of operations or vice president of growth, one of your competitors can swoop in and take your all-star candidate.
5. Meet Employees Where They Are
Finally, one aspect of operations you can’t ignore is technology.
We’ve seen too many concepts get caught up in how their restaurants used to run that they never take the time to think about what the future could look like. This means that they’ll get stuck using products and tools that the younger generation has never encountered until they started working these jobs.
Fax machines. Mechanical cash registers. Those printers with little paper tabs on either side of the page that you have to tear off.
Think about outdated equipment currently in use throughout your concept that has been normalized. Then think about how a new employee would react when asked to train on these items.
A technology-forward restaurant concept is one that will attract top talent, because employees not only have grown up with and know these tools intuitively, but they see that the skills they learn will serve them well for years to come.
This means that mobile-first operations need to be baked into every aspect of your operations, from inventory to ordering and even labor scheduling. Team members should be able to request and make shift-changes on the fly and get important updates via a mobile app. Your general managers should be empowered to conduct business from their phones even as they check on guests to make sure their experience is great.
When you move your operations toward the technology of the present, you set yourself up for a successful future.
The A+ Team
By following these tips, you’ll set your concept up to be an employer-of-choice at every level of operations. For more information about technology that empowers team members, contact Decision Logic.