What Restaurant Leaders Need to Know About Their Non-Desk Workers 

While many restaurant executives work from an office setting, most of their employees are on the ground floor, bussing tables, taking orders or preparing food. In the workforce, these workers are considered “non-desk employees” – those who don’t sit in front of a computer to do their job, don’t have corporate emails, and often have a different set of needs, values and work patterns than their desk-based counterparts. 

Despite making up 80 percent of the world’s workforce, these non-desk employees, including the 15.3 million restaurant workers worldwide, have largely gone overlooked and ignored, which can clearly be seen by the lack of tools they have to effectively communicate and perform their jobs at the highest level. What many restaurant leaders may not realize is that continuing to turn a blind eye to these unique set of needs and behaviors has a major impact on all things that affect the bottom line, including employee engagement, turnover and productivity. Gaining a better understanding of the non-desk workforce can help improve each of those things, and fortunately, there’s no better time to do just that than now. 

As the pandemic shines a light on the importance of non-desk workers in keeping businesses, and the overall economy going, it has also given us a window into how these workers operate – who they are, how they behave and what matters most to them. By truly understanding what makes these workers tick, employers have a real opportunity to meet their unique needs and arm them with the proper tools that maximize performance, productivity, and output.

As a restaurant leader, here are the top five things you should know about your non-desk workforce: 

1. Your non-desk workers are (often) the face of your brand

"Frontline"says it all. Many of these workers literally represent your company, your services and, perhaps most importantly, your brand. Day in and day out, they are running the business and interacting directly with customers. In many cases, they build relationships, knowing what your customers like and don’t like, and can often be the difference between a good and bad customer experience. This has major trickle-down implications when it comes to word-of-mouth, customer response and retention.  Embracing these workers by keeping them in the know not only gives you insight into your customers, but can have a major impact on that customer’s experience – hitting you right on the bottom line.

2. It’s not just your customers who are online, it’s your employees too

The world is turning mobile, and restaurants are doing everything they can to keep up with their guests and customers who are constantly online. When it comes to technology investments and upgrades, restaurants usually focus their spend on the customer experience – QR code menus, online reservations, digital receipts, rewards and feedback.

As a leader of a non-desk workforce, it is important to remember that your customers are not the only ones doing everything online, your workers are too. The vast majority of non-desk worker rely, exclusively, on their mobile devices for everything they do. It’s how they get their news, listen to music, and even how they read and watch movies, so it would make sense that it is also how they communicate for their job, especially given the nature of their work. In order to effectively engage with these workers, it is important to meet them where they are and connect in the ways that matter most to them.

3. Your workers want feel valued and engaged

Employee engagement is the key ingredient of any business with direct ties to productivity, satisfaction, retention, and bottom line. In the restaurant business, employee engagement – whether that’s a smiling face at the door or someone that will go the extra mile to make sure the order is correct – can be the difference between customers coming back for more or never returning again.

One study shows that 95 percent of guests would go back to a restaurant again if they had a pleasant experience and the staff catered specifically to their personal preferences. This kind of customer service can only happen if employees feel fulfilled, happy, valued, important at work. To ensure employees feel this way, it is important to keep them in the loop on all company communications, updates and goals. Properly communicating your business’ core philosophy and mission to employees help promote a sense of team spirit and keep them focused on a common goal.

4. They also want to be recognized, supported and given growth opportunities, especially since they often feel disconnected

Employee retention is a major challenge for companies that rely on a primarily non-desk workforce. In the restaurant industry in particular, retention is difficult as employees, on average, leave their job after just one month and 26 days. A main contributor to this high turnover rate is the lack of support, recognition and growth opportunities that are often provided to employees in the non-desk workforce.

These workers need coaching and training to do their job right, and typically receive that instruction during the onboarding process, but unfortunately, don’t always get the ongoing support and development that their desk-counterpart employees receive. These opportunities are important for your workers to grow professionally, and technology that aligns with how they learn and creating training programs that support their development can help fix this problem. 

5. They need to have the latest information

The non-desk workplace is typically a fast-paced environment overloaded with information, requiring higher-level management to be effective and efficient in the way they communicate with their ground-level employees. Now, more than ever, it is essential that leaders provide their employees with the latest information, not only to keep them up-to-date, but keep them safe. They should seek to eliminate unnecessary noise where important messages can get buried or where employees are required to use a variety of systems to find the latest information. 

For leaders, all of this means that connecting the disconnected can have a major impact on all things that affect the bottom line. Begin by understanding that your non-desk workforce has a different set of needs, access, and work patterns, and evaluate your communication strategy based on your new perspective.