“Staffing,” said one operator at FoodService Director’s recent MenuDirections conference, “that’s a dirty word.” But the event’s attendees proved it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ideas we collected from speakers and audience members at the annual industry gathering to help that word go down a bit easier.
1. Get social
When developing a social media plan, don’t just think about your operation’s target customer, but also consider its target employee, said Joshua Swanson, CEO of digital agency GTMA and chairman and cofounder of Razz Interactive. He suggests featuring an employee each month via your social channels—tell their story, how they started working for the department, the great work they’ve done and a special way the dining program has made their life better. “They’ll share that with their mom and their friends,” Swanson said. “Your target audience is also a potential audience for hiring. The more you inspire them, the more they will help you with your hiring needs.”
2. Ignite team spirit
After some employees called for higher wages, Michael West, dining director for Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, N.Y., offers a quarterly raise if his team reaches goals in four different competencies. The incentive creates more collaboration between the patient feeding and retail sides, and helps the department remain a competitive employer in the area, West said.
3. Take an active role
Trade schools are a well-tapped source of talent for the industry, but with high demand for cooks, some operators are taking a more hands-on role in the process. One healthcare dining director sits on advisory boards for several technical and culinary schools. She talks to students nearing the edge of their programs and tells them about her operation’s growth and goals. “I show them pictures of our food and dining areas to dispel any stereotypes, and it helps to get them a little more engaged,” she said.
4. Distribute the wealth
When Detroit Public Schools’ foodservice program receives excess income, employees get a bonus. The staff receives 2% for each $1 million earned after audits. “The bonus has helped improve morale, accountability and ownership among employees at all levels,” according to Betti Wiggins, executive director of foodservices for the district and winner of FoodService Director’s FSD of the Year award.
5. Get creative with subs
On snow days at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., housing resident assistants help out in dining rooms, dish rooms and serving lines when regular team members can’t make it in. Stepping up in times of need is a trade-off for the assistants’ discounted meals, according to Keith Smith, director of board operations and sustainability for NC State Dining. “The RAs love it and the students love seeing them during the snow days,” Smith noted. “Plus it makes it so the staff can come in when they busses start running.”