Creative Solutions for Dealing with Labor Shortage in the Restaurant Industry

If you happen to walk into a restaurant, don’t be too surprised to find the chef doing the dishes, or the manager setting up tables. The labor shortage in the restaurant industry is at an all-time high, and no; this problem is not new, but it has surely come to a point of extreme concern and fear. According to Dallas News, labor shortage is becoming a crisis that will only get worse. Managers filling in to perform tasks due to the lack of skilled (and unskilled) labor has become commonplace, but there are ways you can deal with it.

Reasons for Labor Shortage

The restaurant industry is portraying a very sorry figure. As more and more eateries, bistros and cafés mushroom in the most up-market of locations, striking a balance between high rent and labor wage is excruciatingly difficult. According to East Bay Times, upward of 60 restaurants in the Bay Area closed down between September 2016 and January 2017. Plus, the increasing prominence of celebrity chefs causes mistaken perception among aspiring chefs that success can be easily earned through fame. In an industry as dynamic as the restaurant, several factors contribute to labor shortage:

  • Dynamic restaurant growth is causing an unprecedented need for skilled workers at all levels
  • Historic low unemployment rate (Sub 4%) has translated into a significant shortage in the required demographics
  • Meager minimum wage ($7.25/hour in Texas) is making attracting and retaining labor extremely difficult
  • Diminishing skill-based learning programs is leading to a severe skills gap
  • Rising inflation and increased cost of living is causing an enormous demand for higher salaries
  • The onset of new dining options is making it difficult for restaurants to find and keep good employees
  • Increase in health insurance costs is putting immense pressure on restaurant owners
  • Growing anti-immigration laws is causing a massive dearth of entry-level skilled workers

Creative Solutions to Deal with Labor Shortage

Apart from delivering delectable food, recruiting and managing employees is one of the most pressing concerns for restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, labor recruitment is a top challenge for most restaurants. While some just close shop due to the dearth of labor, some others turn to creative solutions to deal with labor shortage:

  1. Create a fun work environment: Although restaurants usually operate on thin profit margins, in order to retain top talent (and attract more), operators need to create a fun work environment to make the whole experience more appealing. For instance, Ratatouille and Company holds mock cocktail parties to enable their servers to learn skills like pouring Champagne and answering queries about items on the menu. They also let their chefs prepare their favorite dish and identify ones that can be part of their menu.
  2. Empower workers: Worker dissatisfaction and frustration is common in the restaurant industry. Hence, it is essential you put the right people with the right skills on the right jobs. Give your workers the tools they need and empower them to work smarter and at a more professional level. Offer benefits to high performing employees and stipends for professional development to keep labor motivated, engaged and committed; Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Taco Bell are helping employees pay for college tuition.
  3. Be flexible: Since a majority of labor in the restaurant industry are students or chefs fresh out of culinary school, offering flexible hours that allow them to work longer (or fewer) hours can help in attracting more qualified workers. Instead of imposing strict, rigid schedules, enable flexibility in order to improve worker satisfaction, making the most of the limited labor and reducing turnover. In-N-Out Burger has been rated the number 1 fast food restaurant chain primarily due to its flexible scheduling.
  4. Upskill their capabilities: If restaurant owners screen and train their employees properly, there is sure to be a substantial impact on turnover. Training the workers using creative training methods and honing their skills for their jobs helps in increasing their productivity and efficiency, ensuring loyalty, and reducing the need and cost of hiring more people.
  5. Leverage technology: Using modern technology solutions, restaurant owners can systematize their hiring and training processes. Using mobile apps such as ZippyApp, restaurants can streamline their hiring process with easy application management and tracking, automated application matching, optimized hiring pages, and with access to a huge database of potential candidates.

Embrace Change

Gas prices or labor shortage – some things are just out of your control. Although the root causes of labor shortage are complex, there’s a lot you can do to minimize the impact: from creating a fun work environment, to training and educating your workforce, offering flexible work hours, and leveraging technology for boosting efficiency. Whether you’ve just begun your journey or whether you are an old player, take note of these solutions. You cannot help labor shortage from happening, but if you play your cards right, you can certainly embrace change and make sure your restaurant deals with it the right way.

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