Hiring & training

3 tactics to combat the restaurant labor shortage

Sara Detrik
Marketing Manager

How do you bring and retain top-tier talent into your restaurant? Restaurants and hotels worldwide have come out the other side of the pandemic only to stumble headfirst into the newest obstacle: a restaurant staff shortage.

But this isn’t just your typical staffing shortage. 16% of restauranteurs consider re-hiring and retaining staff to be one of their most significant obstacles — ahead of getting customers to come back or paying vendors.

Staff didn’t just vanish; unemployment during the pandemic has been at an all-time high. And now that it’s time for restaurants to re-open, those positions remain empty. So, how do you recruit top-tier restaurant servers? Simple: by making a few easy changes to your business model.

1. Place value on good employees

It costs around $2,000 to hire and train a new restaurant server. And, with a 72.5% turnover rate, that’s a lot of money to cycle through with every staffing change, adding up to a lot of lost revenue in early mistakes and growing pains.

Employee turnover cost at three average restaurants.
SOURCE: Notch Ordering

Stopping the waiter shortage starts with retention. Holding on to your employees is vital, and making them feel like a valued part of your business is the first step. Make sure you celebrate restaurant staff on their wins and give them guidance or a refresh on restaurant server training when needed.

By investing that time and thought into your employee’s growth, they’ll feel more supported and more engaged – making them more likely to invest in your restaurant’s growth and success.

Breakdown of the cost of restaurant employee turnover
SOURCE: Notch Ordering

2. Consider tech to support your staff

With the staffing deficit, making sure your current employees can handle the increased service is crucial. Many businesses are turning to tech to help prevent staff burnout without dropping productivity.

For example, Cobble & Co used online ordering to help them launch in 2020 with higher employee wages and tips. Guest and staff safety is at the forefront of its operations — diners can order and pay for their meals directly from their phones, minimizing physical contact between servers and guests. Plus, when guests lead the ordering process, servers have more time to build relationships with diners, bringing in an average of $1,700 in tips for each server, almost double the industry standard.

Stats about how Pearl Food Hall has improved and grown since using Bbot

Pearl Food Hall also leveraged tech to increase its sales without hiring more staff. With 24 vendors across 22+ acres of land, the food hall had a lot to manage with a small staff team. With online ordering tools, restaurant servers successfully handled hundreds of tables across multiple street blocks. The food hall added $50K in monthly sales without losing a single server — and increased their wages to $16 an hour.

Restaurant server uses tech to place an order.

Tech and digital ordering tools help venues of all sizes and needs serve guests with limited staff. By removing repetitive tasks like taking orders and running back and forth from the POS, servers can spend more time on what will grow your business, like building relationships with diners and upselling. Plus, digital ordering tools help turn tables faster, helping you serve more guests and increase your revenue flow.

3. Invest in your team

68% of restaurants give handbooks out to their employees for success. But why stop there? Training can be expensive, but hiring new talent because of poor retention adds up to a much higher cost. Support your restaurant staff by helping them get certifications, giving them a competitive advantage and more credibility. Provide opportunities for more training for servers to refresh their server responsibilities and show you care about their careers and are willing to invest in their long-term success.

Give your servers the tools to master digital ordering

Investing is more than just the dollars, it includes your employees' mental well-being and physical health. Advanced scheduling in a hectic business is complicated and needs to be flexible. But, ensuring your employees’ time off requests are honored will prevent more rapid burnout (an epidemic in the restaurant industry) and ensure their time feels valued.

Solving the labor shortage isn’t going to be easy, and it isn’t going to happen overnight. But these tactics are a good jumping-off point for any merchant looking to bring in – and hold on to — top-tier talent to keep your restaurant running smoothly.

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