Navigate current staffing issues with these tips for hiring and retaining personnel.

The past year was difficult, with operators facing excruciating decisions about how to keep their businesses afloat during mandated shutdowns and quarantine. Fortunately, many restaurants now find themselves moving toward the other side of that experience as they prepare to reopen, bringing furloughed employees back and hiring new employees as dining rooms across the country.

This moment provides an excellent opportunity to hire, engage, and retain a team of employees to make your restaurant perform at its peak ability. Here are some tips for how to build and maintain a post-pandemic dream team.

Start with a Plan

Before you can successfully hire new employees and retain existing employees, you need to have a clear understanding of each team member's role. Create unique, accurate job descriptions for each role on your team, seeking input from employees that have held those positions. Create a training plan with clear objectives and timelines for preparing employees to do their best work.

Creative Recruitment

With so many restaurants hiring right now, it's more important than ever to establish why a candidate for employment should be excited to apply at your business. In your job postings, communicate your vision and mission for your restaurant as well as what makes it a great place to work. Paint a picture of the kind of company culture an employee can expect at your business.

It can also be useful to create a careers page on your website with a list of available positions and the necessary steps to apply. Here you can spend more time going into detail about job descriptions and expectations, spelling out compensation and benefits clearly. You can also add a section for FAQs; just seeing which applicants have read them can be a helpful tool when considering whom to hire.

Reach beyond online job postings with word of mouth recruitment, including recommendations from existing staff. Consider implementing a referral bonus wherein staff can earn money after new employees whom they've referred reach a certain duration of employment. In addition to your staff, regular customers can also be great resources in getting the word out to potential applicants. After all, they know your restaurant well, and they might know someone who would be a perfect fit.

Streamline Onboarding

Take a critical look at your onboarding process to make sure it runs smoothly. This is the first impression new employees will have of your company, and it should be a polished, consistent experience, from signing the employee handbook to scheduling the first week on the job.

Train your current employees to acknowledge and welcome new team members with kindness and enthusiasm. Consider designating senior staff members as mentors for new employees to make their early days as successful as possible.

Competitive Pay and Benefits

Fair pay and access to affordable healthcare are two of the most important aspects in retaining employees. Because this is an industry with such small margins, it can feel impossible to do these things while remaining profitable, but it's not the place to cut corners. Build fair compensation and the cost of health insurance into your business plan, and look for health plans specific to the restaurant industry. Offer employees the opportunity to work full-time and try to offer consistent days off or at least some flexibility in scheduling if consistent days off aren't possible.

Create a clear plan for advancement and outline the steps in your employee handbook with quantifiable goals and benchmarks. If staff feel as though there is no room to grow, they'll look elsewhere, so find ways to nurture employees professionally, and you will be more likely to retain them for a longer period of time.

Build a Dream Team

Employees are more engaged and likely to stay on a job if they have a good relationship with their coworkers. Create a safe, inclusive environment where staff feel respected by each other and by management. Facilitating team building activities, staff perks, and industry-focused learning opportunities are all excellent ways to encourage teamwork among your employees.

Other team-building techniques include allowing staff to shadow and train in other areas of the restaurant. This can help bridge the notorious divide between FOH and BOH staff, as can coming up with a fair tip-pooling system. Make it a priority to work consistently on creating a great team and keep trying. It can be challenging to bring employees together at first, but it is a worthwhile pursuit.


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