Common Restaurant Hiring Woes (And What to do About Them)
For the 2018 Restaurant Success Report, Toast reached out to nearly 1000 restaurateurs to see what differentiates successful restaurants – in terms of profit – from other ones.
It turns out that being “successful” doesn’t magically exempt you from having to bring on new FOH and BOH staff. The industry leaders who took part in the survey know all too well that hiring and recruiting takes time – time to leaf through cover letters, time to interview candidates, and time conduct a proper job orientation with every employee on or even before their first shift – and time is money.
So what makes a staff member more likely to stick around a successful restaurant over one that sees less annual profit growth? It all boils down to one simple word.
(Hint: it rhymes with vulture.)
Though you’ve probably already guessed it, the word I'm hinting at is culture. But, before we dive into what that word means both in theory and in practice, let’s dig a little deeper into the many pains of restaurant recruitment.
Here are three common scenarios that might hit close to home:
1. I’m not attracting the restaurant job candidates I want.
You’re the restaurateur who’s tried everything: you spend your Sunday afternoons sifting through resumes, you’ve asked your industry pals to quality check your interview questions, you’ve established an employee referral program, and you've even issued a desperate plea on Facebook… and still you struggle to attract the right talent to your team. What gives?
We’ve all heard the saying, “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch,” but it’s important to be clear on who the bad apple really is— is it an employee, or your workplace culture?
2. My staff leave after only a few months.
The hospitality sector has earned a reputation for having one of the highest turnover rates on record.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover program, the restaurants and accommodations arm of the hospitality industry has held a steady 73% annual employee turnover rate. Ouch.
While there will always be situations beyond your control – an interstate move, a return to school… you know, life stuff – a less-than-desirable restaurant culture can unwittingly send staff and their legacy knowledge out the door earlier than you or they would have liked.
3. I can’t afford to keep good workers—they’ll bankrupt me!
2018 also marked a nationwide roll-out of increased minimum wage regulations.
It’s perfectly reasonable for workers to expect their compensation to align with their job responsibilities, but the substantial increase to the budget you allot to cover labor costs could spell trouble for other areas of your business.
While you may not be able to afford to pay everyone on staff $20 an hour, establishing and maintaining a workplace culture where staff are excited to come to work will act as a non-compensation related benefit that will both attract and retain quality restaurant staff.
The folks at Chron do a nice job of summarizing culture:
“Culture has visible components in the way that a business looks and how employees dress, but it really thrives in the attitudes of the employees, in the setting of goals and in the communication of business values to workers and customers.”
Let's cover some proven ways to build and grow a positive, contagious workplace culture. Making these changes will inch your restaurant closer to that coveted state of staffing nirvana, where you are not only surrounded by loyal, hard-working employees but there is also a steady stream of exceptional candidates knocking down your door to fill open spots on staff.
If you commit to one thing, let it be this: spend time writing down the qualities, characteristics, behaviors, and values, that matter the most to you, like community, credibility, and enthusiasm, for example. There is significant payoff to a values-based culture, and one of those benefits is attracting a tribe of people whose values align with yours.
Remember: like attracts like.
2. Practice culture early, honestly, and often.
It’s not enough to define your restaurant’s values—you must hold every facet of your restaurant accountable for living these values out loud, from the host stand all the way to the dish pit.
Let’s say you’re big on flexibility and work-life balance; prove it by giving your staff some control over their employee schedules, with the option to trade and pick-up shifts at their leisure.
Building an attractive workplace culture has very little to do with salaries and hourly wages.
This doesn’t mean they aren’t still important, but restaurant employee benefits can— and should—involve more than monetary entitlements set out in an employment contract. Transportation stipends, paid volunteer time, and professional development opportunities are all fine ways to engage and empower staff.
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