Recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff has always been a big piece of the puzzle for restaurants, but it’s even more essential now. With margins on a knife’s edge, we’ve gathered some ideas to maintain profitability during the current labor challenges, for your consideration.
Focus on Retention
Hiring hourly employees was an expensive and time-consuming process before the pandemic, and now that’s even more the case. Ensuring there’s a culture of appreciation for your entire staff can go a long way. Improving tip-share policies to be more beneficial to BOH employees, as well as offering bonuses and other incentives for work are key right now. Even something as simple as putting a little extra thought and care into staff meals can go a long way, so if it’s not possible to offer big financial incentives, think creatively about how you can create perks for employees in other ways.
Scheduling is a key piece of this puzzle, and many workers left the industry precisely because they found scheduling to be prohibitive and inflexible. Check in with your staff to determine what they’re looking for in terms of scheduling and stay in tune and responsive to their needs. Take a look at sick leave and evaluate whether or not your existing policies work in light of ongoing school closures and other issues that may make it difficult for employees to work.
If you’re dealing with a reduced labor force, look for ways to cross-train employees on different tasks (if they’re willing) in order to fill in the gaps. For example, a dishwasher may be interested in taking on some prep work early in their shift. This is a great opportunity to train someone from a lower-level position up, giving them a chance to improve their skills and grow with your business.
Hours That Work
This is a trend we’re seeing a lot right now. Restaurants are finding that, in order to stay profitable, it’s necessary to scale back hours of operation. Use historical data and your current experience to determine if you should drop a day of service, open later, or close earlier. You could also consider a hybrid model, wherein you open for takeout and delivery on weekdays and open your dining room over the weekend. This can reduce your labor costs and provide a more flexible schedule for your employees.
Now’s a good time to lean into the most profitable, easy-to-execute items on your menu. This reduces the strain on your BOH team and shores up your menu with an eye toward profitability. It’s time to ditch those loss leaders and focus on dishes that use (and cross-utilize) low-cost ingredients with big impact.
Call on Technology
Many restaurants are looking for solutions in tech, and for good reason. Online reservation platforms, inventory management, QR code menus and table-ordering systems, as well as improved POS platforms can alleviate labor burdens on existing staff, freeing up man hours and allowing you to rely on fewer employees per shift. But, keep the emphasis on personal touches when you train staff. Technology is great when it works, but guests will still expect exceptional personal service from real people.