Industry Issues: Staffing Problems & Solutions
The past year and vast change have served up the restaurant industry some unimaginable challenges. From widespread closures (temporary and permanent) to major shifts in hiring, supply chain issues, and general business models; the industry has proven to be adaptable.
Now, businesses, including restaurants, face a shortage of labor. For the employees they do have, it’s important to make them feel valued and important to ensure they remain employees. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Mid Year Update, 3 of four operators identify employee hiring and retention as their toughest business challenges, despite industry-wide employment rate gains.
The State of the Restaurant Industry
The restaurant industry, specifically, lost 40,000 jobs because of the increased COVID-19 cases in August 2021. Within the industry overall, jobs are still 1.3 million below pre-pandemic levels. Sixty-two percent of operators in the fine dining segment and fifty-four percent within the family dining and casual dining segments are currently operating with staffing levels twenty percent below average.
Currently, restaurants are trying to fill a lot of jobs, including:
- Line cooks and cooks (26%), reporting that these are the hardest positions to fill
- Servers (17%)
- Bartenders (7%)
Based on findings from Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob, full-service restaurant concepts operate with 6.2 fewer BOH employees and 2.8 fewer FOH staff. The turnover rates for limited-service and full-service restaurants are 144% and 106% in June 2021.
Why Are Employees Leaving?
The restaurant industry has always suffered from a very high turnover rate. Throughout the remaining echo of the pandemic, there are several reasons employees cite that they will not be returning to the industry:
- Employees want to return but want their pay to match up with the risk, specifically 28 percent reported they left the industry to receive higher pay.
- A more consistent schedule and income (23%)
- Lack of access to professional development and advancement opportunities (17%)
- Businesses have not conducted any training for COVID safety (37%)
- Employees are reporting that organizations are not following COVID safety protocols (70%)
- Tips have declined in general (80%) or tips have declined by at least half of pre-pandemic levels (66%)
- When enforcing COVID safety protocols, employees are reporting hostile behaviors from customers (78%), sometimes on a weekly basis (60%)
- Industry-wide reports of harassment have increased
Overall, there is not only an issue of employees not “wanting to work” when it comes to the industry-wide staffing shortage, there are other issues that may need to be addressed before any improvements will be seen. What can restaurant operators and managers do?
What Can Be Done?
While this list isn’t definitive and every situation is different, the following tips can be a good starting point to reassure restaurant employees.
Give Them Tools
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the businesses that have invested in technology being able to shift their business models to off-premise and curbside strategies. Moreover, Restaurant Dive reports that operators that embraced technology decreased turnover by 13% and saved around $6000 in new hiring costs for a staff of 10 people. Therefore, adding technology to your toolkit can help your restaurant save money and in the end make your servers less stressed. Since we’re a technology company, we know the other benefits of a fully operational suite of software that allows your entire business to stay connected and communicate; integrate with a variety of POS systems; train more efficiently; and help off-premise strategies. Let’s talk more about technology!
When It Comes to Wages
The restaurant industry is historically notorious for paying below minimum wage with the addition of tips. Recently, reports have shown that average restaurant and grocery worker pay has finally reached over $15 an hour, but it’s not consistent industry-wide. In efforts to restore the workforce, companies like McDonald’s and Chipotle announced general wage increases. Your employees can be the best ambassadors for your brand. Keep them happy and do what you can to make sure they want to remain with the brand.
Draw Them in and Keep Them
We’ve seen reports of restaurants offering enticing incentives to apply for jobs across the industry from signing bonuses to free food for applicants. Businesses are also offering other perks including benefits and referral programs as they hire.
It’s also important to remember that once employees are hired companies need to continue to work on company culture. Since the restaurant industry is already so unstable, employees need to be assured that they are working for an organization that promotes safety, flexibility, and productivity. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, restaurants are going to want to target first-time job seekers and teens, since they are “big players in supporting restaurant jobs.”
What are some of our other suggestions? Stay flexible when it comes to your employees. The pandemic has brought a lot of issues to the surface, tap into some of them including:
- Providing childcare for working parents
- Staying flexible when life happens
- Providing benefits and even healthcare (if you can)
- Providing stability in an unstable industry
Now, remember, this is not a definitive list, but it’s a good place to start. As a business, your employees need your support, especially in an industry trying to recover from the public health crisis. Start with the tips in this article: consider wages, incentives, benefits, hiring bonuses, and tapping into substantial technology. With these tips, your restaurant can start down the right path to supporting your staff in a turbulent industry. Tell us what other methods you have implemented to encourage new staff to your business in the comments below!
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About the Author
Devyn is the Social Media & PR Specialist on the Marketing Team. She has a B.S. in Communication and a M.S. in Global Strategic Communication. She has stanned QR codes ever since a two-week trip to China (and before tbh). She’s obsessed with true crime and enjoys quality time with her friends and family. Ask her about books she’s read, Criminal Minds, or her dog child.
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