A restaurant manager congratulates a team member on a job well done.

Labor and staffing: 4 ways to hire and retain staff

Restaurants struggling to find help can start by protecting their own workers.

Call it a labor shortage. Call it The Great Resignation. Whatever the name, no one knows when the restaurant staffing crisis will end. For now, a smart path is focusing on the employees you have to meet their needs and yours.

Finding workers is a struggle in the best of times. Forecasts aren’t predicting a return to those days anytime soon. 

  • Turnover rates are up at limited-service restaurants (144% in June 2021, compared to 135% in 2020) and full-service restaurants (105% vs. 102%), according to Blackbox Intelligence and Snagajob.
  • There are 1.25 million job vacancies in accommodations and foodservice—the highest for any sector of the economy. The quit rate (5.7%) is double the average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are several areas operators can address to bolster employment now and in the future.

Address employee wages

During the pandemic, many people took higher-paying jobs in other industries. The good news is that restaurant operators can still compete:

  • Increase pay. It’s becoming unavoidable—restaurants face labor shortages despite a 10% increase in hourly pay, according to Snagajob.
  • Attract and retain. Solid wages will lure job candidates and build loyalty among existing staffers—87% of Snagajob survey respondents want a set liveable wage, not tips.
  • Protect profits. Pay hikes cut profits, but Snagajob notes that consumers accept higher prices at restaurants, where menu prices are up more than 4% during 2021.

Highlight the positives

Restaurant employment offers advantages many people desire. As they apply, pitch these to prospective employees:

  • Work-life balance. Part-time work, flexible hours, scheduled days off, etc.
  • Benefits. Healthcare, childcare, tuition, scholarships, etc.
  • Training, development and promotion. This appeals to career-minded foodservice workers.

Strengthen your culture

Restaurants are all about teamwork. Use that mindset to make yours a place where people want to work:

  • Recruit by networking. Encourage happy staffers to bring friends onboard, perhaps offering a recruitment bonus.
  • Each one, teach one. Utilize cross-training so everyone can fill multiple roles.
  • Coach for success. Be a mentor to engage your best and brightest.

Get creative

In today’s climate, extras can make a difference:

  • Employee of the week/month. Offer a cash bonus for top performance.
  • Team outings. A picnic, bowling party, movie night or team-builder builds loyalty.
  • Meal discounts. Work with other operators on your block (or restaurants in your multi-unit company) to offer price breaks.