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5 Creative Changes to Consider in Your Restaurant’s Culture and Business Model

Restaurant’s Culture and Business Model

COVID-19 has permanently changed the dining industry. It may be time to change with it.

As restaurants opened up and Americans got vaccinated, the restaurant job market saw a significant decrease in employees to feed the increase in guests.

The hospitality industry is still 1.6 million jobs lower than its pre-pandemic level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor shortage in the food and drink sector is so severe the Washington Post just reported the headline, “Experts worry summer’s robust restaurant industry rebound was an ‘artificial sugar rush.’”

Last month, the restaurant industry saw an increase of 29,000 jobs after 24,700 in August, the Post reports. To understand the emotional sentiment behind the peaks and valleys in these data from job search site Jobs List: “A third of former hospitality industry workers weren’t even considering reentering the industry.”

This is a developing situation and may take years to fully figure out. There are some tips and suggestions to consider in the meantime.

1. Change in business model

Restaurants throughout the country have made drastic changes from your typical low wages in the front of the house with earned tips to tip sharing. Others have adopted a co-op model, where employees have ownership of the business themselves.

Some have moved to profit-sharing models or no gratuity. By eliminating the possibility of having a slow night with little to show for it at the end has increased productivity and profits at restaurants throughout the country.

It’s long been a high turnover business. Especially now when more restaurants are in need of help, the competition is steeper and gives reason to just up and leave to go to another restaurant.

Back-of-house cooking positions are some of the toughest positions to fill. A 6 percent increase in cooking job demands is predicted over the next 10 years. If cooks are incentivized with better benefits and room to grow, they’re more likely to stick around than jump ship after the first rough night on the line. Speaking of…

2. Invest in better employee benefits

Reporting and research show much of the labor shortage is due to the high demand for workers who want something better.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave many workers the opportunity to reflect on the job they’ve been in for a while with time to pursue something new. Investing a portion of your budget that would go to hiring multiple employees to instead use on better health insurance, on-the-job training, maybe bonuses or paid time off, you’ll likely see an increase in the quality of potential hires who will stick around longer.

3. Expand classified sections

Employee referral programs help quality workers bring in more quality workers. If you already have someone doing a good job and they know another in need of work, reward them with a financial bonus for bringing them in.

Psychologically, no one wants to have their friend or family ruin their good-standing reputation at work. If they’re rewarded for bringing someone good on, they may do the same. You can host a hospitality networking night for in-the-business workers.

4. Poll your staff

A write-in box can surprisingly make a difference. Corporate offices utilize a suggestion box to see what their workers really think of the company without fear of retaliation. The same goes for a staff meeting where it’s encouraged for the workforce to let management know what it is they truly need to succeed at the restaurant.

Another corporate philosophy that has proven successful in company improvement is exit interviews. Employees who’ve already made the decision to leave are the most honest about the trouble going on within. They have nothing to lose and can tell the truth about the flaws they’ve noticed in the day-to-day management and what salary and benefits they need to stick around.

5. Be understanding

The truth is, guests need to be educated on the current climate. There is nothing wrong with admitting you’re short-staffed and are there to still provide the best experience possible. You can do this in a classy way without hanging up a sign that reads “short-staffed – no one wants to work,” like so many viral social media and news posts since states began to reopen.

Times are tough. But quality guest experience will always shine through, especially when your competition isn’t ready to put in the effort that you are. Prepare for profit margins to shrink and to communicate with the community that you’re here for them with all you’ve got.

Notify guests through well-articulated social media communication. Explain this is just a sign of the times and your team is there to give everyone the best experience they can.

This advice ends where it began: times are tough but not impossible to navigate if you get creative. Build your team and take care of people. The same goes for the guests who frequent your restaurant.

Your staff and regulars are more likely to reciprocate as long as they feel valued and appreciated.