How to Survive the Restaurant Employee Gap

One of the most fascinating (or troubling) facets of this industry is the current employee gap that exists in most regions of the country. There simply aren’t enough employees to be found, forcing good management teams at restaurants everywhere to scramble to fill out employees schedules. This is the exact opposite of the trend in most industries, in which hiring has been slowed down or frozen and many qualified people are out of work.

This places additional burden on management teams to find talented employees and keep them for the long haul. Operators must increasingly:

• Focus on retention strategies
• Adjust salary scales
• Make hiring a year-round practice
• Build employee loyalty

This is an emphasis that many management teams have been slow to adopt. Failing to adjust the way managers view employees can have dramatic results, especially in markets that are highly competitive. Understanding a few valuable tools for managers in this climate can pay big dividends in the long run.

Focus on Talent

There is no more important variable in the success of a restaurant than the talent of the employees. There are certainly other requirements, like the quality of the food and the cleanliness of the environment. But talented employees carry out this vision over the course of time, building clientele based on consistency and quality of performance.

It takes a talented team of individuals who work together over the course of time to establish a lasting niche in a local market. For these reasons, finding and keeping talent has to be a very high priority for the management team.

Build Loyalty

The combination of talent and loyalty is closely associated with successful restaurants. Managers must find a way to keep talented individuals in the fold. This is the hallmark of consistent performance, which is imperative for keeping guests coming back time and again.

Loyalty can be built in a variety of ways. But the best way is to be sure that employees sense rewards and incentives for staying put. This might occur naturally for servers in an upscale environment. But the natural rewards of the business have to be augmented by managers, in part by:

• Rewarding employees with promotions/raises
• Building a family environment
• Creating a positive organizational culture
• Making sure that the staff comes to work smiling

The employee culture has to be results-oriented and fun. Building clear expectations and a friendly, fun environment are good places to start.

Bring Employees Together

Getting employees to come together regularly helps build a strong organizational culture. There are many ways to achieve this, including:

• Throwing staff parties (e.g. holiday parties)
• Celebrating special occasions
• Providing rewards for holiday success
• Describing the organizational missions and challenges
• Staff meetings

Many employees respond to learning about organizational goals and performance. This is an uncommon tactic that can be effective, especially in smaller, independent environments.

Always be Hiring

This is a vastly underrated strategy for restaurant managers. The tendency is to set up interviews and post advertisements only when the need arises. In fact, this is a facet of the business that managers must work to stay on top of. This includes:

• Cultivating a steady stream of resumes
• Being realistic with job candidates
• Providing professional development opportunities
• Providing evidence of raises/promotions for current employees

An aggressive stance on hiring is often the answer for restaurants who are struggling to keep a staff of talented employees. Keeping the talent pipeline open helps mitigate employee losses and fill the building with talented employees. A year-round hiring stance takes time and effort, but the long-term rewards can provide a huge benefit to a growing business, especially in this labor climate.