Restaurants, in particular fast casual and casual dining chains, continue to struggle with finding and retaining labor. And although there are no easy answers, in the face of staff shortages, a growing number of restaurants are finding creative ways to keep their workforce motivated and happy.
Below we take a look at a few strategies that foodservice companies are realizing to help alleviate the problem – some may be familiar, some may be new to you, but all should help you inspire long-term loyalty from your best employees.
Create a Career Path: If a restaurant employee does not see an opportunity to advance within your organization, they are likely to leave. Instead of locking great employees into place, try to move them up the ranks. Schedule regular check-ins on an individual level to understand their abilities and desires in the industry, provide clear and actionable feedback on job performance and, make paths to higher level jobs clear and attainable.
For some, career growth is an important factor in deciding where to work. Providing solid steps for employees on how to advance within your organization will help you to retain workers longer.
Offer Competitive Benefits: While more traditional benefits such as health and dental coverage, life insurance, and retirement plans are still important to quick-service employees, employers need to get more creative with the types of benefits they offer to truly stand out in a competitive market.
One quick-service brand, St. Louis–based beef sandwich chain Lion’s Choice, has achieved employee retention rates that are nearly unheard of in the quick-service industry. More than 80% of the company’s approximately 275 full-time-equivalent employees have been with the company 10 years or more. Jim Tobias, president of Lion’s Choice, credits their brand’s retention rates to the benefits they offer their employees. Lion’s Choice offers full-time employees medical and dental insurance, a 401K program and match 50 percent, life insurance, family and medical leave, and paid vacations.
By understanding the various economic constraints of employees and knowing what is important to them, whether it’s a transportation stipend, child care coverage, flexible work schedules, will not only help you craft the right benefits program, but it’s a major way to keep talented team members from looking elsewhere.
Recruit non-traditionally: When looking to hire and retain employees you should consider looking beyond the obvious talent pool and recruit non-traditionally. What exactly do we mean? Right across the country, there are thriving organizations that are turning the staffing crisis into an opportunity by providing vital training and employment to communities who are striving to change their lives.
St. Joseph’s Culinary Training Program (CTP) in Los Angeles is one such example that offers culinary skills geared toward those facing multiple barriers to employment — veterans, those formerly incarcerated or homeless, those with disabilities or learning needs, kids transitioning out of foster care and people coming out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. While this route might be daunting to some employers, success rates for non-profit organizations are high; the CTP program for instance has an 80% hire rate for graduates and a 70% employment rate one year out.
Embrace Smart Tech: Many restaurants have discovered that investing in smart technology not only helps cope with a manpower shortage but actually improves job satisfaction. By streamlining and automating tedious aspects of your restaurant’s operations you eliminate some of the manual, monotonous tasks that cause employees to seek out greener pastures. Similarly, new technology-based kitchen systems improve communication and ordering processes and help to reduce confusion and more importantly, stress levels – all of which contribute to higher job satisfaction rates and a more positive workplace association.
Offer Employees Educational Opportunities: Now this isn’t always feasible if you are a single store or small chain. But there is a lesson here when it comes to coming up with ideas to show your investment in your employee’s future. According to studies, there are fewer turnovers at restaurants with more educated employees. Companies like, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A take the lead when it comes to providing educational opportunities to employees. Chick-fil-A’s Leadership Scholarship Program offers $1,000 scholarships to qualifying employees to the school of their choice. Not coincidentally, the turnover rate among store operators at Chick-fil-A is less than 5%, while the fast food industry average is 35%. So maybe it is time to think of some creative ways to support your employee’s long-term aspirations?
Recruiting and retaining quality employees is tough to do. However, satisfied employees are less likely to leave an organization. Taking the time to take care of the people who serve your customers is good for your business. With some thought and consideration – and the above tips in your back pocket, you will be in a better position to keep your employees engaged and loyal to your business.