Your Restaurant’s Guide to Overcoming the Labor Shortage
The hospitality industry has faced many challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even two years after the outbreak, we continue to see its ever-changing impacts on the industry. Though some aspects have certainly improved with time, it is without a doubt that there are still many barriers to face. In 2021, hospitality business owners experienced record-breaking labor shortages. This all-time high staffing crisis hit the industry at a magnitude we have not seen in decades. Job openings and worker resignation rates are at record highs and show no signs of slowing. In April 2021, Forbes reported that 4 million workers left their jobs, increasing the number of job openings to 9.3 million – a new record.
Before we share solutions to this unprecedented labor shortage, we must first understand why this is all happening.
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred many changes, but its effect on employment was one of the most significant. Many restaurants survived the pandemic with limited staff or closed down entirely. Although these eateries are now getting back to normal operations, managers have to fight persistent labor shortages in their staffing.
Workers are not returning to hospitality jobs following the pandemic for many reasons. Some still have anxiety about catching the virus, especially when interacting with hundreds of customers per shift. Others hesitate to return to positions lacking certain benefits or believe they have no room for career growth.
The food service sector is arguably one of the most demanding industries. Working in a restaurant is a high-stress environment with pressure from all directions. In recent years, restaurants across the country have noticed a drastic loss in staffing.
While much of the initial decline can be linked to COVID-19, this time away was just the push they needed to leave for good for many. Burnout has been connected to the loss of close to 1.8 million jobs in the food service industry in the last two years. As a restaurant owner or manager, it’s crucial to acknowledge the broader issues within the industry to retain your employees and cultivate a productive environment.
Servers, waiters, and backroom staff experience many challenges within the hospitality industry, leading many to quit their jobs. Guests are becoming harder to please, and bosses are strict, limiting time off requests and maintaining unrealistic expectations of their staff. Many former employees have stated that once they left, they felt immense pleasure and relief in their life.
Some of the main reasons employees are leaving the restaurant industry include:
- Lack of flexibility.
- Toxic environments.
- Extreme pressure.
- Low compensation.
- Demanding employers.
In a climate where the turnover rate for restaurant staff is only increasing, establishments must work hard to keep their best people. If you’re wondering what you can do to make sure your best employees remain happy and respected, consider the following strategies:
- Regularly recognize your staff: Restaurant work is tough. Recognition will show how much you appreciate your employees’ hard work, keeping their motivation and happiness as high as possible.
- Increase compensation: Fair wages are surefire ways to ensure your staff feels valued for what they do. You can implement ways to distribute wages evenly as well.
- Convenient scheduling: Everyone has a personal life in addition to their work life. Build your schedule with your workers’ lives in mind, get the schedule out in advance, give them adequate time off and allow shift changes.
- Improve culture: More and more individuals are looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Establish your core values and stand behind them — living them through your day-to-day operations.
- Create an employee benefits program: While standard benefits include healthcare and insurance, they can comprise much more. Consider talking to your employees to understand what they need, what they’re interested in, and what they’d like to see implemented.
As pay rises around the country, companies are starting to realize that they’ll have to do much more to attract motivated workers. Inflation and gas prices are soaring, which offsets minimum wage increases and wage improvements and minimizes their effect.
Increasing workers’ pay isn’t going to have the same effect that it once did. So, what will employers have to do to limit restaurant staff turnover?
Why Just Wages Won’t Help Keep Restaurant Employees
Implementing higher wages is excellent — everyone loves getting paid more! However, these increased waiter wages won’t necessarily meet all of their needs. Even if you find highly skilled and motivated staff, you’ll waste their potential and decrease their sense of achievement unless you make efforts in other areas. Until then, increasing workers’ pay will do little more than diminish your profits.
People desire to be fulfilled in their work more than ever. While job security, fair wages, and flexible scheduling are the groundwork for a good job, companies should strive to provide more opportunities to meet workers’ higher needs. Satisfying higher needs will keep your restaurant staff engaged and motivated, providing an environment where they feel welcomed, valued, and satisfied.
A workplace meeting its workers’ higher needs offers opportunities for:
- Personal growth.
Widespread staffing shortages are occurring all over the country, leaving restaurants without the necessary personnel to perform at full capacity. While the food service industry is forecast to hit $898 billion in 2022, COVID-19 is still causing turmoil, such as supply delays and staff shortages.
Take a look at the following statistics from the National Restaurant Association to understand just how the pandemic is still affecting the food industry:
- There are 650,000 fewer workers in the food service industry than in January 2020.
- As of April 2022, eating and drinking establishments are 794,000 jobs below pre-pandemic levels — becoming the industry taking the longest to reach full employment recovery.
- Monthly openings exceed total monthly hires by 500,000.
- 77% of restaurant operators report experiencing restaurant crew shortages.
- 65% of restaurants cut hours of operation, and 44% of operators reduce their seating capacity and items on their menu.
While many factors are out of control, there are a few things that you, as an establishment owner, can do proactively to help lessen the effects of the labor shortage.
Even though there may be a smaller pool of viable talent in the industry due to the shortage, there are changes to HOW you recruit talent that can make a difference.
One way to do this is by reaching out to local colleges and universities within your community to find talent there. By partnering with local organizations or high schools and getting involved with job fairs, after-school programs, and other grassroots initiatives, you can attract and build a relationship with budding talent before they enter the workforce. An interactive way to build these relationships is to offer free training or skill-building workshops for people entering the labor force. This is a great way to get exposure and possibly make an exchange for a term of employment!
Another recruitment option is to get help from a professional company. By partnering with recruiting agencies, you can expand your talent pool and reach a larger audience of potential hires through their network. Although this may not be a free option, these agencies are very effective and provide you with great tips and advice. We’ve listed some examples of staffing agencies below:
Day-to-Day Recruiting Strategy
You can’t train someone to be a good person, but you can train them to do what you want them to do. Keep your eyes out for potential employees when running your daily errands. Whether in Staples or at the grocery store, always keep a business card on you. Seek out good people, and even though they are not currently working in the restaurant industry, ensure them there is a spot at your location and that it will be a smooth transition with loving people by their side.
If you don’t currently have one, create an employee referral program to motivate current staff with rewards when they refer someone to work for you. Not only does this improve the quality of new hires, but it also saves you time and money because you no longer have to spend time recruiting talent. Great workers will only refer someone they are confident will get the job done well because it reflects on them. Word of mouth travels fast, so if your employees love going to work every day, they are likely to relay that message to their friends.
When creating your program, offer incentives! A simple way to set up a referral program is to provide a $300 bonus for bringing in an employee. The bonus is not received until the new employee works for 3 months. This ensures workers only bring in reliable and hard-working candidates. Recognize the employees for referring candidates to motivate them to refer more people and bring attention to the program in front of other workers. Track the success of the program and update the incentives if necessary.
Another form of outreach your establishment could benefit from is hosting events. These events could be related to hiring or staffing, but they don’t have to be! Hosting events of any kind creates a buzz within your community and helps expand your name and reputation within the industry.
You can join forces with breweries in the area and conduct events like a “Tap Takeover” to introduce new and fun beers to your customers and even reach a new audience of people. Don’t forget to promote these events on your social pages to market to an even broader audience!
Check out this link here for some different event ideas you could host!
Technology proves to be a clear path to increase efficiency and convenience within the hospitality industry, which is why bars and restaurants are choosing automation to overcome the staffing crisis. Yelp even states, “If restaurant owners can automate specific steps in the diner experience, the savings on labor costs can be re-distributed as higher wages to their employees.” As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of restaurants investing in technology in 2021. Statista reports that the interactive kiosk market revenue reached a whopping 28.34 billion dollars, a 6.4% increase from 2020.
Not only is this advancement in technology helping businesses meet new customer demands, but it’s also allowing businesses to stay afloat and operate with less staff. Below, we will outline a few rising trends that can help your establishment overcome these challenges.
Invented in Japan in 1994, QR codes have been around for some time now. However, they were most common internationally. This was mainly because until 2017, Apple’s smartphones were unable to natively scan QR codes without a third-party app, which limited their ease of use. Once the pandemic hit in 2020, they quickly grew in popularity thanks to their ability to reduce the spread of germs and contact points.
Now, restaurants continue to use QR codes as an easy way for guests to access their website and menu. Many restaurants have even implemented contactless ordering and payment methods right from the table to reduce interactions with servers.
If your restaurant is struggling to find servers, add contactless ordering/payment methods to your operations. You’ll reduce the number of servers needed to quickly and efficiently serve guests, and 66% of diners said this would increase the likelihood they would place an order at your venue. Place your QR codes right on the table in an easily accessible spot. Diners can scan, order, and check out all from their phone! Over the last year, 80% of consumers have used contactless payment options. Not only is this a safe way to maintain distance during the pandemic, but it also reduces the need for cashiers or excess staff.
Bbot, an online ordering service, is a great tool to use. You can customize your menu, and guests can order on-site or place a takeout or delivery order right from their phones. Many establishments have found that using QR codes increases sales because guests are likely to select more items. The tech makes it easier for customers to get what they love, and it reduces staff burnout since they don’t have to run around checking in half as often.
For my operations, Bbot is monumental. It allows independent food hall vendors to all sync onto Bbot, thus allowing guests to order everything at one time. The QR code enables guests to order and pay on their own, so we don’t need a cashier and operate with 1-2 fewer team members.
Gardy Desrouleaux, Managing Partner at Craft Food Hall
Key performance indicators can help you track and measure your businesses’ performance and quantify your metrics to see where changes need to be made. Conducting a deep dive into your reporting will allow you to reevaluate your operations.
Do your hours of operation make sense? Maybe your business should only open for a short timeframe when you are bringing in the most sales. Review your RevPASH and average customer headcount to understand what times bring in the most revenue and when your busy/slow periods are. This will help you determine the best times to open and close your doors.
Are you scheduling too many staff members at the same time? Look at your labor costs to optimize your scheduling of staff.
We recommend looking at this list of 25 essential bar and restaurant metrics to focus on ways you can increase your sales with less staff. Many POS technologies analyze this data for you, making it easier than ever to report on this data!
As mentioned above, self-service technology has taken the hospitality industry by storm. Many big-name brands are adding self-serve kiosks to their operations to optimize efficiency and reduce guest wait times. Tillster predicts that by 2024, the self-service kiosk market will reach 30.8 billion dollars. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to consider self-serve beverage technology as an option for your establishment!
With self-serve beverage technology, operators have…
- Reduced labor costs by 20% or more
- Increased profits by 45% or more
- Increased service efficiency by 4x
- Reduced waste to as little as 3%
Self-pour beverage walls are the perfect solution for overcoming the staffing crisis. It allows business owners to operate with fewer staff members while maximizing the number of customers served. This leads to a significant increase in sales. And the operators aren’t the only ones who love the benefits it brings! Customers love having control over their entire drinking experience and sampling as many beverages as they want.
Check out this video to see how our self-pour technology can help you reduce the number of staff needed in your establishment all while increasing your beverage sales and boosting efficiency!
Malcolm Yards, a PourMyBeer family member in Minneapolis, MN, is taking advantage of the benefits self-pour brings. When comparing the total revenue from their 32 self-pour tap wall to their bar, they found some astonishing numbers.
Download the case study below to learn which setup (traditional or self-pour) brings in most of their total alcohol revenue, where most of their pours come from, and how much staff is needed to operate each.
To Access the Case Study, Fill Out The Form Below:
Do Not Settle, Hire The Right Employee
For restaurant owners, having potential employees show up for an interview is 50% of the battle. Although it is hard to find candidates, do not settle. Your workers are a reflection of your business. You can train someone to be a waiter/waitress, but you cannot train them to be a good person. Look for a person who will fit into the culture of your organization. When interviewing potential employees, a good thing to keep in mind is the Danny Meyer strategy.
- Empathy – Caring and aware of how their actions will make others feel.
- Self-awareness – An understanding of themselves and how they handle situations.
- Optimistic warmth– Glass is half full, not half empty mentality.
- Intelligence – Eager to learn.
- Work ethic – Go-getter mentality.
- Integrity – Take accountability for their actions, do the right thing, and use judgment before taking action.
Currently, operators are desperate and will hire the first person who wants the position. To stray away from hiring the first employee interviewed, use a scorecard to rank them in a series of categories during the interview. It will be a good thing to look back on and an easy way to compare candidates.
Also, ensure you are asking the right questions. Questions such as what are your weaknesses, where do you see yourself in 5 years, and why should I hire you, do not provide you with the information needed to tell if they are a good cultural fit. Instead, ask, what is teamwork to you, what was one area your manager asked you to improve on, and how would you rate your previous bosses, which will allow them to provide insightful answers.
Onboarding, Orientation and Training
When hiring new employees and training current employees on new procedures, ensure that the process is easy and efficient. You do not want to create overly time-consuming training procedures. This will deter new employees from staying past training. Many people are looking to get hired, start working and make money.
Introduce the new hire to each member of the team. This will make them more comfortable and create the amazing culture every owner wants. During this orientation/training process, the new hire will see the everyday tasks of each employee and learn a lot through visual learning and hands-on training.
Training costs can be expensive for independent restaurants, but there are methods and tools to ensure new hires get taught what they need to know at a low cost. Tools like Trainual have a low monthly cost and allow operators to build out their training online through pictures, videos, and text and pass it to all employees. It is a hefty workload in the beginning, but helpful in the long run.
If you have not done so in a while, reevaluate your training process to ensure it is as productive as possible. Also, assure that all employees get trained on the new technologies implemented in your bar or restaurant.
Perks and Benefits
Many hospitality workers left the industry for more stable jobs, but 55% of surveyed job seekers said they would consider taking a lower-paying job if it offered attractive benefits. Right now, many are seeking out positions where they will receive health insurance, sick and parental leave, and the ability to work flexible hours. Many restaurant workers are also looking to get jobs at businesses offering non-tip wages when setting up, breaking down, and cleaning. If you can create more stability through your perks/benefits, you will increase your employee retention rate and attract new employees!
If you cannot provide 100% dental, medical, and other coverage, that is okay. You have to sell the potential employee on your business. People want to work in a company where they feel valued. Sell, sell, sell your company! You are not just interviewing them, but they are interviewing your company to see if it will be a good fit for them. Make sure to highlight your company’s 5 F’s: fit, family, freedom, fortune, and fun. Is it a good fit for them? Will they make decent money? Will they have fun going to work? Is there room for growth? These benefits are perks for them and are more essential to happiness than providing complete coverage.
In addition to selling the company, you must sell the job itself. When posting job openings online, make it seem fun and enticing! Show who your company is and what that person will join when they work for you. Many people want to work somewhere with a fun and inviting work culture, and when applicants see a little bit of your business’ personality online, they’ll get excited about applying.
Feedback and Exit Interviews
Getting feedback from your employees is so important. For workers to feel comfortable and willing to work in a difficult industry, they must be able to speak their minds. Shiftnote is a flexible platform that allows team members to add feedback in an organized manner for you to review and act on.
Conduct exit interviews when staff members leave your business. This will give you insight into why staff leave and where you can make improvements if necessary. However, it is preferable to check in with your staff regularly to try and resolve any issues before they quit. It will also allow you to focus on your current employees and how you can retain them before looking outside your organization.
If you’d like to learn more about our self-serve technology and the benefits it could bring to your establishment, contact us below!
Strategies to Help Workflow
- Focus on one task at a time: Studies have shown that multitasking is never helpful. While you may want to chat with customers, check up on orders and train new employees simultaneously, choosing the most critical task and focusing on that first is more effective.
- Boost morale: A small team that works well together is often better than many employees with little training. Finding ways to boost morale will make employees more likely to stick around. Some ways to improve your staff’s experience are to make changes based on their feedback and encourage them to develop friendships with each other.
- Reflect on your day: Think about moments during a shift that went well and areas for improvement. Then, use these insights to improve workflow for the next day.
- Consider your limits: Maybe your restaurant seats 100, but you only have the staff to serve 50 right now. Give those 50 customers a fantastic time instead of 100 customers a mediocre time. You can also consider introducing ways to reduce the need for employees, such as self-serve drinks or ordering stations.
Hiring restaurant workers has been an enormous challenge for thousands of establishments nationwide. Restaurants are understaffed, forcing them to raise prices, reduce their menu size and decrease their hours to stay open. Managers and staff are left wearing many hats, fighting to stay afloat. Restaurants can implement the following strategies to overcome this labor shortage:
- Creative hiring methods: You should strive to stand out by promoting yourself online, working with staffing agencies, and advertising through schools and community centers. It may also be helpful to offer employee referral bonuses or skill-building workshops in exchange for employment.
- Flexible scheduling: It’s essential to prioritize personal lives and the work-life balance more than ever. Acknowledge staff preferences for the number of shifts a week and time of day while having protocols for time off requests and scheduling conflicts.
- Improve employee benefits: If you cannot increase your compensation, consider offering incentives like overtime, healthcare, company events, and professional training opportunities. The goal is to ensure that your employees feel valued and appreciated for their hard work.
- Automate where you can: Consider streamlining your workflow by automating reservations, inventory, and even some aspects of service, which could lead to higher productivity, retention, and happiness — allowing employees to focus on what they enjoy.
You and your staff can take steps to improve working conditions and avoid short staffing:
- Reduce your menu: Focus on your most popular dishes and remove any options people rarely order, allowing you to optimize your menu for time efficiency and save labor.
- Decrease hours of operation: Without an entire crew, it’s wise to pull back and reduce your hours to the busiest hours. You’ll maximize productivity without stretching your staff too thin.
- Thoroughly train your staff: When staffing is tight, you should strive to teach each member to be qualified in many different areas. Cross-training your employees to handle front-of-house and back-of-house functions will allow you to operate more efficiently and quickly.
- Automate specific processes: Automation will help minimize human labor, taking a bit of the weight off your staff members’ shoulders. You can streamline various areas of your restaurant workflow by introducing online ordering, utilizing reservation software, and managing your inventory with dedicated technology.
- Enhance company culture: While short-staffed, your employees will work harder than ever, enduring extended hours and completing extra tasks. It’s vital to ensure that these individuals understand how much you value what they’re doing to create a happy and motivating environment — even small acknowledgments go a long way.
Nowadays, workers are more focused on how a job fits their life circumstances. Employees with kids must think about how their employer will work with their busy schedule or how a job will help them grow. These are questions that job seekers and employers alike must ask, attempting to balance basic needs with higher needs.
Wondering how to keep your restaurant staff? Consider the following ideas to ensure you meet their basic and higher needs:
- Focus on take-home pay: Between taxes and limited hours, increasing wages doesn’t mean your employees receive a livable salary. In many areas, including the food industry, staff members work less than 40 hours weekly, some taking home less than $10,000 a year. Focusing on take-home pay and tracking progress will allow you to ensure your employees are receiving meaningful wages they can depend on.
- Determine schedules early: Consistent scheduling will create an environment where your employees understand what to expect from their weekly paychecks. This will also give them ample time to plan childcare and transportation, taking care of everything necessary in their life.
- Opportunities to grow: Workers want the ability to know that there are chances to learn new skills and move up the ladder through the company. Knowing these opportunities for promotions and better positions will cause many to work harder, be more productive and maintain a high level of motivation.
future staffing questions
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, millions of restaurant employees faced unemployment. As businesses return to typical conditions, many restaurants face employment shortages. The small staff they had during the height of the pandemic is no longer sufficient as customers return to restaurants in large numbers.
Restaurants and other food service industries are still below pre-pandemic employment levels. As a restaurant owner, you may struggle to provide adequate staff, especially for busy shifts. These challenges make scheduling more complicated, and you may need to schedule fewer people than you would like to staff all shifts.
PourMyBeer’s self-service kiosks provide restaurant labor help. Customers can pour from a variety of beer, wine, cocktails, cold brew, or kombucha. Restaurant operators love this system because it allows them to operate with 20% less staff. Customers will enjoy better service, even during labor shortages. Staff members can focus on customer interaction rather than running back and forth for drinks, and guests love using the system to pour their drinks.
PourMyBeer technology can help your restaurant address and recover from restaurant labor shortages. As a restaurant owner, you work tirelessly to provide a valuable customer experience for your guests. Your limited staff works hard to ensure customers love visiting your business and want to come back again.
Unfortunately, labor issues can cause customer satisfaction to plummet. Customers lose patience when they must wait longer for service. When employees are available to help, they may be distracted by many other guests. Multitasking out of necessity could lead to order mistakes and other issues that might make guests less likely to return. Meanwhile, staff may feel less optimistic as customers complain of mistaken orders and lower-quality service.
PourMyBeer can help. Our self-serve taps allow customers easy and fast access to the drinks they want without waiting or risking incorrect orders. Beyond improving labor shortages, our tap walls reduce the time your team spends making drinks. Instead, staff can enjoy taking more time to converse with guests and form connections that turn one-time guests into loyal regulars.
We hope you’ve found some of these solutions helpful when overcoming staffing issues in your establishment. If you need help hiring and maintaining your staff, check out our guide below!