Jun 07, 2022

How to Improve Staffing Concerns: Restaurant Owner Ultimate Guide

The restaurant industry has faced significant changes in recent years. 

The rise of efficient door-to-door delivery apps had fueled a rapid shift in the consumption patterns of many restaurant-goers even before the pandemic started.

Today, the industry has overhauled many of its core processes and introduced new functions, such as app integrations, pre-pickup stations, and increased dine-in restrictions.

That said, one of the most pervasive and worrying of these changes is the labor shortage and staffing concerns. Exiting the pandemic, the restaurant industry is experiencing a distinct lack of workers.

This guide will specifically address critical issues and provide you with a comprehensive summary of everything you need to know to solve one of the more pressing problems affecting the restaurant industry– hiring and retaining new talent.

Causes for the Restaurant Industry Labor Shortage?

Before we can get into the main subject, let’s understand what’s causing the labor shortage.

Even before the pandemic, the restaurant industry had several concerns. The pandemic only exacerbated those problems, and now we’re left with several topics, new and old, that food service establishments will have to navigate going forward.

Here are a few issues to consider.

  • Underlying supply deficit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the restaurant industry was set to outpace the general economy in growth as the demand for restaurant jobs such as chef and head cook, bartenders, and line cooks was projected to grow by roughly 17%, while all other occupations had a total average of 8%.
  • Low or below-average wages. Pre-pandemic wage levels in the hospitality and food service industry were notorious for having low wages. With things slowly going back to normal, wages are inching up, but still not enough to persuade workers to return to the industry.
  • The departure of the Gen X labor pool. Another surprising factor aiding the labor shortage is the continuing trend of the newer generations’ departure from the labor pool, choosing instead to pursue internships and volunteer work for college applications.
  • Pandemic-fuelled health concerns. Despite vaccine rollouts and mask mandates, the hospitality sector is still at very high risk of the pandemic, making workers hesitant to return to the restaurant industry.
  • Lucrative unemployment benefits. Some restauranteurs are pointing to pandemic-era unemployment benefits being too high, dis-incentivizing unmotivated employees from returning to the industry.

5 Places to Find the Best Restaurant Staff

The factors that sustain the current labor shortage are essential because they can help us think about potential solutions to avoid the missteps.

Now that we know the drivers for the labor shortage, here are the five best places to find the best restaurant staff. Knowing where to look can mean the difference between an open position and a filled position in a tight labor market.

Virtual Job Fairs

Job fairs are an effective, tried-and-true recruitment strategy. These events stimulate demand by making hiring more accessible to the typical job searcher.

Before the pandemic, companies used to hold job fairs by pooling representatives from multiple big corporations, setting up booths, and simply waiting for applicants to walk in.

From the applicant’s perspective, job fairs are a chance to be exposed to multiple companies in one place. Applicants typically complete numerous in-person inquiries or interviews in just one day.

However, physical job fairs today may not have the same kind of prominence that they once enjoyed.

New regulations brought by the pandemic and the general anxiety of being part of a crowd are likely to limit the turnout of physical events.

Even so, job fairs for restaurant establishments can still be conducted online.

These setups have their limitations, but virtual job fairs benefit from being cost-efficient and less risky than physical job fairs.

Your Website’s Careers Page

In today’s highly digitized environment, you can’t afford to underutilize this part of your online face. 

In fact, today’s job applicant considers company careers pages to be the most important information to discover when looking for a new position.

Your careers page is one of the first places that potential applicants typically check when researching your company.

If you want potential job applicants to see you as a great place to work, ensure your website’s careers page has the following characteristics.

  • Informative. Display all the information that potential applicants are looking for, such as open positions, job descriptions, career paths, and development opportunities.
  • Engaging. Every page on your website is a battle for users’ attention, so craft engaging content to hook their attention while positioning your establishment as a great place to work.
  • It tells a story. Although pay, benefits, and security may be essential, your company’s values are also important—yet they’re often neglected during the hiring process. Your careers page is the perfect opportunity to briefly tell your story, what you believe in, and what you stand for.

Referral Programs

Employee referrals are extremely effective forms of recruitment in the restaurant industry.

Because employees are tapping into their existing networks, it increases the likelihood that the target audience is already similar to the employed individuals.

More than that, talent from referral programs also tends to have a better idea of the company’s policies and work culture. They’re also more engaged in the application process since someone they know has a personal stake in ensuring they’re undergoing a smooth transition.

That’s not to mention other benefits, such as: 

  • Reduced marketing costs
  • Lessened downtime
  • Faster time-to-hire, and more

It should be no surprise that, according to Erin, 82% of surveyed employers rate employee referrals as having the best ROI out of all other recruiting strategies.

If you want to leverage these benefits, follow these steps.

  1. Create a comprehensive and appealing referral program. You can reward employees who bring others into the fold through recognition and perks.
  2. Communicate the benefits properly. Conduct a well-designed information campaign so that your average employee should know the help of your referral program by heart.
  3. Formalize your system. To draw more benefits from your referral program, properly define rules, regulations, and steps.
  4. Make it easy to join. Remove barriers for employees to take part in the referral program.
  5. Prioritize candidate experience. Your referral program is useless if your application process dissuades your applicants. A seamless and convenient candidate experience when applying ties it all together.

Culinary and Trade Schools

Specialty schools are some of the best places to post your job openings because the environment and content of these institutions are already somewhat aligned with yours.

Students in these schools will probably be more interested in applying to taste what their industry might be like when they graduate.

You can market to culinary and vocational schools simply by posting flyers on their physical grounds. You can also ask for permission to post on their social media pages and groups or arrange an official affiliation with the school.

For example, ‌create a mutually beneficial after-school program for interested students, internship experiences, or activities where you can give on-the-job training.

Connect with your local high school, vocational school, or community college to learn about such opportunities.

Hospitality-Focused Job Boards

Aside from general online job boards, you can also post to job boards specifically catering to restaurant jobs.

Some examples of these include the following websites:

Tips and Tricks to Keep the Best Restaurant Employees

It’s safe to say that staffing issues are some of the restaurant industry’s most pressing problems, and we need to do everything we can to either solve them or avoid them.

However, ‌we shouldn’t just focus on hiring new employees.

Aside from upgrading your recruitment process, improving policies that help employee retention is also crucial in creating an environment where you’re not at the mercy of the highly competitive labor market.

Here are several tips and tricks that can help you keep your best restaurant employees.

Make Your Restaurant Operations More Efficient

According to Statista, in 2018, the hospitality industry had the highest burnout rate globally. About 80% of respondents employed in the sector reported being overwhelmed by the amount of work they do.

Burnout is one thing—but there are other factors that might add to their mental burden.

Pandemic uncertainty, increased workload, and a great job market create an environment where your employees can easily quit their position if they feel that your demands are too much. 

Thus, one of your primary missions as a restaurant owner must be to optimize your kitchen processes. Here are some things you can do.

  • Map your operations. Thoroughly audit your restaurant processes and note bottlenecks, common employee complaints, and pain points to assess which processes to improve, remove, or replace.
  • Encourage teamwork. The disconnect between the front of house and back of house staff is one of the more common problems that plague a restaurant. If yours is one of them, look for ways to connect the two and establish good teamwork.
  • Employ new technologies. Upgrading your restaurant with better POS systems or KDS can improve your performance more than if you just attempted to do everything manually.
  • Reevaluate your management model. Your management style is at the core of a successful restaurant, so you need to ensure that your management model is still effective.

Selecting the Right Management Model For Your Staff

Your staff management model underpins your restaurant processes, so you must have the right one for your specific circumstances.

However, many modern restaurants neglect to create a new management model to adapt to current trends. Instead, many fall back to old practices that might not be the most optimal models anymore.

Instead of practicing the traditional front-end tipping policies or tip sharing, you can do your research on these new management models instead.

  • Gratuity-free. Some establishments don’t allow their restaurant staff to take tips and instead pay everyone wages well above the state minimum, and also often offer remarkable benefits.
  • Profit-sharing. Facilitated by advanced, open-book software, profit-sharing splits a certain percentage of the profit with the restaurant staff to reward their work.
  • Improved insurance and benefits. Employees can offer competitive advantages to their staff members, such as health insurance, to improve retention rates.
  • Safe spaces and inclusivity. Besides wages and benefits, restaurateurs can further improve their appeal by making binding commitments to create safe spaces and be more inclusive in their workplace. You can hire those with non-traditional backgrounds, such as former convicts, refugees, former foster youths, etc.
  • Mission-driven advocacy. Connecting to your local community and working for a cause doesn’t just give your restaurant business more meaning. Your employees will also unite under your mission and develop a cohesive structure.

These new restaurant management models are taking the industry by a storm—but keep in mind that there’s no specific step-by-step guide ‌you can follow.

To determine what model is good for you or if a new management model is needed, you must first be in tune with your business and your restaurant team.

Install Self-Ordering Kiosks

If you want to optimize your processes, this is more practical advice that you can employ.

Self-ordering kiosks are electronic stands that automate a large part of your front-of-house staff’s workload, such as taking orders and payments.

Using these can improve your efficiency by reducing workload, minimizing human errors, and even improving the quality of customer experience. In today’s delivery-crazed food industry, you can even utilize:

Utilize QR codes

QR codes are efficient methods of transmitting information.

With these images and a smartphone scanner, it redirected your customers to a helpful website page. There are multiple ‌applications used for this, such as:

  • Promotional campaigns that link pages announcing sales or exclusive offers
  • Redirects to order pages for efficiency
  • Unique, low-cost mobile experiences for regulars and interested guests

Use Scheduling Tools

Restaurant technology has been on the rise for a couple of years, and scheduling tools are just one of the several accessible software platforms that you can use to improve your processes.

Scheduling tools allow you to set hours more efficiently. With one of these in your arsenal, you have complete control over the employees’ hours, allowing you to eliminate guesswork and drastically minimize human error.

Additionally, it gives you all the information you need for an efficient yet flexible scheduling strategy that works for everyone.

Maximize Inventory Management Tools

Your restaurant POS will most likely have an integrated inventory management tool, which helps you track all of your resources and even order from your vendors the moment you run out of supplies.

This cuts up a lot of administrative time in the long run, although you’ll need to invest some time while you’re onboarding to the software.

Maximizing your inventory management tool is a great place to improve your systems and lessen the burden on your employees.

Consider Automated Marketing

Repeat customers are a restaurant’s bread and butter, so you need to continually market them with new and attractive offers.

Automated marketing takes this process off your hands. 

  • Sending emails
  • Service software can automate SMS
  • Messenger, 
  • TikTok
  • Instagram 
  • Free up time ‌that you can allocate to other areas of your business

Improve Your Pay Structures

An Interesting solution to think about when addressing your staff’s pay structure would be to invest in technology that can improve the overall efficiency of your restaurant. This would give you the opportunity to reward your employees with competitive wages, and you get to deal with less turnover.

Using voice AI ordering platforms will allow you to have an automated employee on staff that would make everybody’s job easier.

Voice Ai ordering could assist you and your restaurant in a variety of ways: 

  • Conversational interfaces
  • Personalized voice experiences
  • Greater hygiene
  • Faster, more convenient customer service
  • More accurate ordering
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Increased sales through upselling
  • Consistent brand experiences

Bump Up The Benefits

More than ever, employee needs are becoming more complex and urgent. Over the past few years, the average restaurant worker’s markets have become more difficult.

Aside from a bump in pay and basic healthcare insurance for restaurant employees (which isn’t mandated by law for small restaurants in most states), employees now value the following benefits.

  • Flexible working hours
  • Educational assistance
  • Paid parental leave
  • Shift meals
  • Transportation subsidies
  • Guarantee of a safe working environment

How to Budget for Additional Employee Benefits

With the lack of supply productivity, high labor costs, and increasing the cost of goods, it’s understandable that restaurateurs might find it challenging to spend more on employee benefits. These upfront costs are worth it since the employee turnover rate is much higher, estimated at $5,864 by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research. Here are some tips for restaurants looking for ways to stay competitive while navigating the current market.

  • Adjust prices. Look for creative ways to increase your margin by minimizing food costs while still maintaining your quality and brand.
  • Implement automatic gratuity. More and more restaurants are implementing automatic gratuity (also called a service charge) to improve their bottom lines.
  • Reduce controllable costs. Reevaluate reduced costs, such as electricity consumption, internet bill, service subscriptions, etc., and try to see if there could be possible reductions or cuts entirely.
  • Incentivize retention. Preventing employee turnover is already a win, but you can further improve your odds by incentivizing loyalty, such as bonuses for yearly milestones or benefits that kick in after they have achieved specific prerequisites.

Provide Career Development Options

Employees think about their future, and if they don’t see a sustainable future in your establishment, they don’t stay for long.

Mindful and practical career development training won’t just improve your employees’ skills at their current job—they will also see their position as a long-term investment.

When employees feel ‌they can grow with the organization, they become more willing to dedicate their time to you. There are many ways you can go about this—and not all of them have to be expensive. For example:

  • Mentorship
  • Specific skills training
  • Reabsorbing interns or temporary restaurant workers
  • Student loan assistance
  • Flexible work hours to help with school

There are already many methods that allow managers to conduct these developments, such as the DiscoverLinkServSafe, and opportunities from the National Restaurant Association.

Design a Healthy Work Culture

A good amount of establishments in the restaurant industry were known for having subpar workplace cultures rife with overworking and low wages. If you want to stand out as a great place to work, improving your workplace culture would be an important incentive.

Here are some tips on how you can do that:

  • Streamline your processes to avoid overworking.
  • Eliminate the gap between front-of-house and back-of-house employees with creative or technological solutions.
  • Bring your mission, vision, and goals to life by incorporating your values into your daily operations.

How to Create a Restaurant Training Manual

If you want to minimize turnover, you need to pour your efforts into designing a highly effective and sustainable training strategy. An excellent manual template is essential if you want to onboard new hires as efficiently as possible.

The best training manuals have these three main parts: 

  • Overview and Introduction
  • Rules and Regulations guidelines
  • Conclusion and Acknowledgments.

Overview and Introduction

This section introduces the reader to the contents of the manual. You can include sections like welcome letters, content overview, table of contents, values (mission, vision, core values), and more.

Your overview and introduction will set the tone for the rest of the manual, so make sure it’s engaging.

Rules, Regulations, and Guidelines

This should comprise the meat of your manual’s content. This section should contain an in-depth discussion about what an employee will have to follow in your establishment.

Whether it’s about general workplace conduct, safety policies, anti-harassment, or more ‌detailed, comprehensive, and compliant content.

Among everything else, your manual needs to emphasize‌:

  • Safety rules. Sanitation, distance keeping, mask mandates, risk exposure, etc., need to be included so that your employees know what they need to do to keep themselves and their customers safe.
  • Customer engagement guidelines. This includes rules about engaging customers, answering complaints, and restaurant policies on dealing with problematic behavior from customers.
  • Restaurant how-to’s. From operating the POS devices, taking inventory, or even washing dishes, go into as much detail as possible to provide additional resources for training your new staff.
  • Rules for working specific shifts. Any special instructions regarding a change must be included, such as securing the premises for end-of-the-day dresses and opening the store for starting shifts.

The last part of your training manual should contain a wrap-up of the previous content and acknowledgments of those who contributed to its creation. Here, you can also add other messages, such as closing statements from critical people in your company.

Improving Staffing Concerns: Wrap-Up

The past years have brought unique challenges to the restaurant industry, ‌culminating in one of the most challenging labor markets.

One way SoundHound is helping with staffing shortages is with Voice AI.

Voice AI can help automate tasks, such as ordering and customer service, which will free up staff to focus on other areas. This is likely to take pressure off your employees, thus creating a better work environment.

With this staffing guide for restaurant owners, you can navigate this new, labor-scarce restaurant industry and not just survive but come out on top.

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