Managing Staffing and Turnover in the Restaurant Industry
Those who pay attention to the news have likely seen that our country is experiencing a labor shortage the likes of which we have not experienced in a long time. The shortage spans many industries, but it seems that fast food and sit-down restaurants have been hit the hardest. What is most perplexing is that there are millions of jobs available and plenty of people looking for work. They’re just not taking restaurant jobs.
If you are a restaurant owner who has experienced this issue first hand, then you need to make a change now so you can bring in the best employees and earn a profit in this busy market. To help you out, we will talk a bit about the situation at hand and how you can change your retention strategies to find and keep the best staff possible.
What’s the Problem?
Employee turnover in the restaurant world is not a new trend. In fact, since 2016, there has been a 61% turnover rate in the industry, and it all came to a head with the arrival of COVID-19. It was during this terrible time that many restaurants had to close their doors to comply with government mandates and to ensure the safety of their customers. The problem is, even with vaccines and a reopening of the food and hospitality industries, employees are opting not to work in these industries as they did before, which has resulted in 70% more job vacancies than before the pandemic.
So, why are employees leaving and not coming back? Part of it is the natural flow of life. There is a labor shortage throughout many industries. This is led in hospitality by many front- and back-of-house employees reaching retirement age and dropping out of the industry to enjoy their golden years. Those spots need to be filled, and finding employees with the same amount of knowledge as someone who has been working there for decades is hard to come by.
However, when it comes down to it, many folks simply say that restaurant work is difficult and they don’t feel like they are properly compensated for their efforts. In fact, when asked, 87% of restaurant employees said that hourly pay and low tips were the core reasons for their displeasure. Then, there are COVID-19 related reasons, such as parents not being able to work because they have to stay home with their kids and a general fear of getting sick.
Needless to say, employees have many reasons why they want to leave, so your restaurant needs to give them reasons to stay.
Consider Paying More
If you want your current employees to stay or you want to hire the best employees available, then you need to up the ante and give them a reason to want to work at your establishment. One of the driving factors is pay. Many restaurants pay minimum wage for most positions, and in some states, it isn’t enough to live off of and rarely enough money to support a full family. If you really want to attract the top talent then you will need to find a way to increase your wages.
As you may imagine, states with a higher minimum wage of $11-$12 tend to have lower turnover rates in their restaurant industries, so that is a good goal to aim for when you hire new people. If your restaurant is already located in one of these states that has the higher minimum wage, then you may have to separate yourself from the competition by offering even more per hour, so potential employees come to your establishment instead of going to your rival.
Many restaurant owners may initially scoff at the idea of raising their wages after two years of closures and reduced revenue, but there are tactics that you can use to save money so you can offer higher salaries. One way to save cash is to cut down on utility costs by keeping lights off during closing time, using emergency-efficient appliances, and reducing water waste with low-flow faucets. You can also take a close look at your menu and remove the items that don’t sell as well. A minimalist menu will not only save you money on ingredients, but it may also give your restaurant a more boutique feel that many customers enjoy, which could increase your bottom line.
Positive Work Environment
While higher pay is always a driving factor, it isn’t the only reason that employees stick around. You also need to have a positive and diverse work environment where people feel happy and safe so they are inclined to return day after day. One way you can achieve this is by making your staff feel like they are part of the family by asking their opinions on process changes and actively listening when they give their feedback. You should also check in with your staff regularly to ask how they are feeling and be receptive to their responses.
In addition to being there when you need them, you should also show them that with hard work, they can grow with the company. You can do that by providing them a path to advancement and giving them reachable goals that they can work towards so they know that they are striving for something bigger. When they accomplish the goals, make sure to follow through with what you promised.
You can also create a positive work environment by literally changing the atmosphere in the restaurant. You can brighten the area and improve the mental health of your staff by allowing more natural light, removing unnecessary clutter, and placing plants around the dining area if the decor makes sense. It is the little things that can make a difference in the happiness and attitude of your team.
In the end, the staffing shortage within the restaurant industry will not be solved overnight, but by taking steps to improve the atmosphere and give your employees a fair shake, your eatery will survive the storm. Consider the steps above, and let’s look forward to a prosperous 2022.
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About the Author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.