Bringing in Staff During the Worst Shortage in 30 Years

Restaurants and hotels worldwide have come out the other side of the pandemic only to stumble headfirst into the newest obstacle: a staffing shortage. 

But this isn’t just your typical staffing shortage. According to a survey conducted by the James Beard Foundation, 16 percent of restaurateurs consider re-hiring their staff to be a more significant obstacle to re-opening than getting their customers to come back or paying their vendors

Staff didn’t just vanish; unemployment during the pandemic has been at an all-time high. And now that it’s time for restaurants to re-open, those positions continue to stand empty. 

So how does the intelligent restaurant and hotel owner bring in top-tier talent? Simple: by making a few easy changes to their business model and knowing what employees value.

 Place Value on a Good Employee

It costs around $2,000 to hire and train a new restaurant worker, and with a 75 percent turnover rate, that’s a lot of money to cycle through with every staffing change. More than that, that’s a lot of unaccounted for lost revenue in early mistakes and growing pains. 

Stopping this deficit starts with retention. Keeping the employees you already have is paramount, which means making them feel valued and part of your business. The growing popularity of minimum wage for restaurant workers isn’t an accident – it’s a reflection of how unappreciated servers and staff feel even before the pandemic. 

Outside of raises, giving employees additional training and certifications are major ways of reducing churn. By investing that time and thought into your employee’s growth, they’ll feel more supported, making them happy to, in turn, invest in your restaurant’s growth and upselling success.   

Create a Productive and Helpful Space

With the staffing deficit, making sure your current employees can handle the increased service turnout is crucial. Many businesses are turning to tech to ease their overworked staff, lessening burnout and increasing productivity. 

For example, Wingstop’s CTO has seen incredible growth from the switch to mobile ordering. 

"When the pandemic hit last year, the company’s digital ordering capabilities were already well-established. Wingstop quickly went from generating 40 percent of its sales from digital channels to 60 percent, a significant acceleration from its previously steady growth of 4 percent to 5 percent per year, Peterson said. For the fiscal year 2020, the brand’s digital sales blew past $1 billion." –Stacy Peterson, How Wingstop approaches new technology, according to CTO Stacy Peterson, National Restaurant News

But for more in-venue dining options, turning to tech has been a haven in the storm. Todd Cedarholm of Playa Betty’s in New York also dealt with a staffing shortage. While many businesses had to shut their doors a couple of days a week to accommodate, Cedarholm was able to stay open for business. 

By leveraging new technology, this enabled Todd and his team to “operate with 40 percent less staff” and still serve all the guests with excellent service.

Invest in Your Existing Team

Sixty eight percent of restaurants give handbooks out to their employees for success. But why stop there? Training can be expensive, but hiring new talent because of poor retention is a far higher cost. Employees feel supported when you invest in their future, and people, in general, want to feel secure in their future.

Investing goes beyond dollar amounts, including investing in the mental wellbeing and physical health of your employees. Advanced scheduling in a hectic business is complicated and has specific demands to be flexible, but ensuring your employees’ time off requests are honored will prevent more rapid burnout (its own epidemic in the restaurant industry) and ensure their time feels valued.

Offer Additional Sign on Bonuses

Papa John's is announcing a $50 referral bonus and a $400 appreciation bonus to their employees, making this one of the most expensive and intense hiring pushes in the industry. If your employees are enjoying their work and coming in for shifts, consider leaning on them with extra incentives for bringing in talent. 

This is another way to use your current staff as resources without leaning hard enough to quicken burnout. Additional sign on bonuses can be more than dollar amounts, although those are most effective. You can offer more time off or even special dinners.