In recent years, the foodservice industry has experienced a troublesome and unprecedented crisis where staffing is concerned. Simply put, it has never been harder for restaurants to attract and retain a labor base. This crisis is affecting businesses up and down the restaurant hierarchy, from fast food chains to fine dining establishments.
If you own or operate a restaurant, chances are you have already felt the effects of this labor shortage, though you may not have a thorough understanding of the problem yet — let alone the solutions. This article takes a closer look at some facts regarding the staffing crisis, as well as some strategies for overcoming it.
With high overheads and constantly rising food prices, restaurants have always faced challenges when it comes to staying in the black. This makes it difficult for many restaurants to remain competitive when it comes to employee wages. Simply put, in order to raise wages, restaurants usually have to increase menu prices, which in turn lowers customer retention.
Historically, restaurants were able to count on a large labor pool, making it relatively easy to replace workers who chose to move on. Today, however, competition for such workers is far greater than it used to be. Furthermore, non-food industry companies are often able to offer more competitive wage increases.
Another cause of the labor shortage lies in the fact that teenagers — once the prime demographic for restaurant labor — are working far less than in the past. In 1968, nearly 50 percent of teenagers between 15 and 17 held jobs. In 2018, that number had plummeted to a mere 19 percent.
These factors explain why the number of open jobs in the foodservice industry has grown so rapidly. Even in relatively recent history, the trend has continued to steepen. Between August 2017 and August 2018, the number of open jobs has increased by nearly 20 percent. Not surprisingly, foodservice operators now routinely list labor recruitment as one of their greatest challenges.
Unfortunately, unless you are in position to increase employee wages enough to remain competitive, there is no one solution to the current labor crisis. Instead, restaurants must embrace a variety of different people-first philosophies to increase employee loyalty and foster and environment of long-term commitment.
Companies must strive to create a culture in which employees feel valued and heard. Encourage two-way communication, and regularly check in with employees. Likewise, encourage camaraderie by sponsoring periodic get-togethers and special training sessions.
One particularly effective technique involves inviting your employees to participate in food and beverage tasting events. Such events allow employees to relax and enjoy your restaurant's food as if they were customers. More importantly, those sessions offer a great chance for learning. Employees who feel that they are continuing to learn and increase their knowledge are much more likely to remain with you long-term.
Another key strategy for working around the labor crisis involves tightening up your work flow. By identifying inefficient areas of your operation, and taking pains to correct them, you can often reduce the amount of staff you need. Upgrading restaurant equipment can also reduce staffing needs by making cooking tasks easier and more efficient to accomplish.
Fryers are an easy way to accomplish this. With innovative controls that are easy-to-use and easy to train people to use, operations can help get staff up-to-speed quicker and allow them to operate quicker once they're up to speed.