The restaurant business is challenging at the best of times, and the past few years certainly haven't been the best. Staffing shortages are the most prevalent issue facing restaurateurs across the country, and without pre-pandemic staffing levels, many restaurants find it difficult to properly accommodate diners who are clamoring to eat out again. We're looking at ways that restaurants can survive the staffing shortage and even thrive, post-pandemic.
The shortage of restaurant workers is not a new phenomenon. Though it seems like the COVID-19 pandemic was the cause, in reality, the exodus of restaurant staff had already begun and those circumstances just moved things along.
There are a few reasons why it’s become increasingly difficult to find and keep great staff for your establishment. For one thing, let’s just be honest: the industry isn’t known for high pay. In fact, the restaurant sector is commonly viewed as having low wages for long hours. Many people are simply unwilling to work in such conditions. We all know the minimum wage in restaurants tends to be lower than the average wage in other industries, which can make it difficult for people to count on a certain income. Along with that, restaurant workers put in long hours on their feet, including weekends and holidays. This can be really taxing. In short: it takes a special person with a certain kind of fortitude to make it in the restaurant biz!
Additionally, the restaurant industry faces a high turnover rate. Many workers leave their jobs after a short period, which leads to a constant cycle of finding and training new employees - and this can place more pressure on the experienced workers, causing frustration. On and on the cycle goes. The high turnover rate is another symptom of the low wages and long hours, but it can also come down to scheduling conflicts, a lack of advancement opportunities, etc.
COVID-19 was the final push for many people to leave their restaurant jobs. As many restaurants were forced to close temporarily, job losses ensued. While most restaurants have reopened, some didn’t survive. Their workers took the break to find new employment somewhere else. Finally, the pandemic (along with the extended unemployment benefits) caused many people to re-evaluate their career choices. A lot of people have decided that the restaurant industry simply isn’t for them. As we mentioned, it takes a special individual to hack it!
Overall, the worker shortage is a complex issue with a lot of factors. None of that information really helps you, though. So, let's talk about what you can do.
RELATED READING: Navigating Staffing and Supplies During Pandemic
Many restaurants have opted to add delivery services and ghost kitchens, either using their own staff and taking orders through their website, or working with third-party delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grub Hub. However, even these services are suffering from a lack of delivery drivers. Dominos pizza chain is uniquely tackling this shortage, testing robot delivery services as part of an upgrade to its restaurant tech.
It's not just a lack of delivery drivers that can impact a restaurant's ability to adequately deliver a great take-out experience. With full dining rooms and the demand for home delivery, kitchens are under a lot of pressure to execute meals for more diners than the restaurant was built to handle. Delays in cook times directly affect a restaurant's bottom line, both in terms of customer service and the restaurant's ability to turn tables. Order management upgrades can help, allowing kitchens to handle the increased volume while still delivering products in a timely fashion.
Some larger restaurant groups, such as Darden Restaurants, the owners of popular chains Olive Garden and Red Lobster, among others, have started incorporating tech into the dining experience with interactive kiosks at each table, allowing diners to order drink refills, appetizers, and desserts, and pay their tabs, communicating remotely with their server. Advances like this, which are linked into the restaurant POS (point of sale) system allow restaurants to operate with fewer servers, as some of their duties are more automated.
Many restaurant workers rely on tips to make a living, or, for those at an hourly rate, wages generally just above minimum wage. As we mentioned earlier, lack of pay or unstable income is a large factor in the staffing shortage. In addition, a large number of restaurants don't offer benefits for workers, such as paid time off and medical coverage. For the ones that do, eligibility has historically been spotty.
However, when restaurants raise their base pay to a living wage, $15 per hour, it becomes much easier to fill open positions without raising prices, or with just marginal price increases. With higher wages may come better morale from workers and more engagement with their jobs. Full-service restaurants may be moving away from a tipped system and instead paying servers a higher hourly rate and covering the costs by adding a 20% surcharge to all checks. With this extra fee comes more flexibility for restaurant owners to offer benefits and perks, in addition to a living wage.
Many companies have long recognized the benefits of having a strong social media presence. A well-developed social media strategy can build their brand, and engage with customers who, more and more, use social media to communicate, rather than traditional means, like emails and phone calls. Restaurants, too, are embracing social media with links to their online application and content designed to engage potential workers on platforms that they visit most.
This, in addition to hiring bonuses and referral bonuses, can help increase the hiring pool for every kind of restaurant from fast food to fine dining.
SaaS (Software as a Service) technology can help reduce restaurant overhead costs while giving them the benefits of leading-edge sales software. This is a leased service that combines order management, payroll and scheduling, and online order taking, all in one system. With leased software, restaurants can avoid costly upgrades to purchased POS systems when technology increases, plus have the software customized for their needs.
Plus, SaaS allows owners and managers remote access, giving them details of operations in real-time, as well as making it easier for tech support to troubleshoot if the system goes down. No more after-hours service calls right in the middle of the dinner rush!
Staffing shortages don't have to be the end of restaurants. Being creative about recruiting staff, raising wages for a more stable workforce, and employing the right technology can help streamline service and boost profits.
Furthermore, a happy restaurant worker is a long-term restaurant worker. Look into ways to make the lives of your staff easier. One method is to implement Cuboh so that tablets are consolidated and delivery service apps are streamlined. We can help you reduce order issues, grow your sales, and eliminate delivery headaches with our all in one food delivery solution.