No quick fix for labor issues

By 
Dana Moran, Managing Editor

talent compass

Because it’s the pain point that catches our attention first, these pieces generally focus on environmental sustainability. But while water conservation, compostable packaging and low-waste produce orders all are important items on FSDs’ to-do lists, we’ve been struck lately by just how hard another problem is hitting the industry: labor shortages.

During two recent operator summits, the inability to find enough quality people was the first thing listed by C&U and healthcare FSDs when asked what keeps them up at night. Nearly half of respondents in FoodService Director’s 2015 B&I Census reported that recruiting, training and retaining staff members are issues in their operations.

Stories of struggles with—and answers to—labor shortages are scattered throughout the pages of our magazine as well. This month’s cover story investigates whether one potential solution, the use of technology, is helping or hurting customers’ experience. To be honest, it’s not the story we expected to write. Ordering kiosks and touchscreens seem like a great replacement for cashiers, and we anticipated widespread acceptance of the machines. But our reporter found that in many cases, as one operator puts it, diners “don’t want to have to push a button to add tomato.” Food is a personal experience—and with that comes the personal touch of customer service.

So how are operators supposed to sustain that experience—especially when facing a boom of Generation Z diners at colleges and universities, the stream of millennials moving into the workplace and the continuous march of baby boomers into senior living facilities? Money was part of the answer for one C&U operator, who was able to raise wages by 50 cents an hour when more than 800 additional students hit campus. But tech also is playing a role in combating overcrowding; the university is beta-testing a grab-and-go pre-ordering app. But there seems to be no quick solution for a problem that’s looming larger every day.

Here’s the part where we at FoodService Director magazine really crave your feedback: How are you finding solutions for staffing shortages at your own operation? No trick is too small, from crazy marketing campaigns to multitasking equipment to free breakfasts for all employees. The more ideas we’re able to turn back around and share, the better the customer experience for everyone. (Come to think of it, that free breakfast thing sounds pretty rad…)

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