6 solutions for labor shortages

cooks foodservice labor

From Restaurant Technologies.

What if only half of your current kitchen staff showed up for work today? Could you keep the doors open?

In today’s foodservice climate, it’s difficult to cope with fewer staff on hand. So, many foodservice operations are focusing their efforts on retaining employees back of house—affectionately known as the heart of the house. The BOH is comprised of the chefs, line cooks, bussers, runners and dishwashers, all keeping a restaurant operating smoothly. While most foodservice operations are challenged with staffing, BOH has been hit the hardest.

Ditch short-term survival tactics, develop long-term staffing strategies

Smart managers keep an eye on the big picture when it comes to labor. Time spent recruiting and training team members affects profit and sales, which is why it’s important to employ the long-term strategy of retaining good workers.

As you place the emphasis on hiring and retaining team members, these six actions can support that strategy while setting up your team for success.

1. Cultivate and motivate.

As a manager, you know you are responsible for the success of your team, so it’s important to build a lasting one. When a worker leaves your operation, it’s usually a result of one of three things: hiring the wrong person with the wrong attitude and expectations; hiring the right person, but not training him/her well; or hiring and training the right person but not treating him/her well.

Team members don’t quit companies; they quit managers. If a team member likes you, he/she is more likely to stay. Show you care by paying attention to your staff’s personal lives. Be engaged with and accessible to your team, and provide continuous training and support that positions them for success.

2. Create a culture where it’s safe to speak up.

You don’t want to feel like a number, and your team members shouldn’t, either. Everyone wants to be valued for his or her contributions. Be cognizant by recognizing milestones and offering feedback on a regular basis. Enhance two-way communication by having an open-door policy. Consider giving employees a vehicle for submitting suggestions for improvement, even if it’s handled anonymously through a suggestion box.

When you take the time to address these comments to the group at regular staff meetings, they know you are listening. You might also consider holding important staff meetings off site, where you can complete a fun team activity in an environment that breaks down barriers and encourages input.

3. Realize millennials are no different than you and I.

Everyone talks about attracting millennials. While they are the largest generation in the workforce and have their own unique influence, some managers have observed that they are not so different than the generations before them. Like their predecessors, millennials want to work at a place they enjoy, with a clearly defined career path. It’s not complicated. They simply want to be supported along the way, so it’s important to know how to keep them inspired. Mentor them. Show them opportunities for advancement and personal growth so they stick around.

4. Encourage employee engagement through coworker camaraderie.

In addition to recognizing and mentoring employees, don’t forget to build a positive team atmosphere. People come from different family situations these days. Many look to their colleagues to fill a void in their lives. That older shift manager who acts like everyone’s grandma is more important to the cohesiveness of your team than you realize.

5. Give them what they want.

Many full- and part-time workers want more hours and a stable schedule that they can count on each week. It makes it easier for them to arrange for childcare, plan family activities, attend school to finish a degree and maybe even work another part-time job. Be mindful of the needs of your team members as you create schedules, because a little flexibility can go a long way toward raising employee satisfaction levels.

6. Get high marks for high tech.

Many restaurants are improving efficiency through technology. In front of house, providing tablets on tables is becoming common for customers to use to place their order, pay the check and engage with entertainment such as games and news as they wait for their food. Servers like these tabletop devices because they often add to the number of items ordered–think desserts and appetizers–thus increasing tips.

Technology is also boosting safety and lightening workload in BOH through resources such as an automated oil management system or software that speeds up routine tasks like inventory and creating employee schedules.

Keeping the lights on when labor is tight requires the deliberate effort of retaining and growing the reliable workforce you have. This long-term strategy can strengthen your team while encouraging them to make a career with your company. When you take steps to retain great talent, you can ultimately contribute to the long-term success of your company.
 

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