Restaurant Staffing for Success

Even the greatest restaurant concept and menu design can’t make up for staffing shortfalls. Hiring and retaining great staff is critical to long-term success. If you get these five principles right, you’ll have a great foundation for growth.

Avoid Desperation

If you’re launching a new restaurant, addressing recent growth, or addressing a recent staff drop-off, it’s tempting to wait until the last minute (or a positive cashflow) to take on new staff. This may sound like a prudent business move, but it will cause more challenges. What you’ll be left with is:

  • Undertrained staff: even the most experienced wait- or kitchen-staff still have to get up to speed on your menu, workflow, and culture. A shortened training timetable will likely result in a gap in training, which can over time trickle down to later generations of onboarded staff. Every gap will impact staff effectiveness, and ultimately your customers. Well-trained and equipped (and therefore happy) staff make a huge positive impact on your business that even great food can’t compensate for if it’s lacking.
  • Slim staffing market: if you’re launching or growing in a competitive market, you don’t have the luxury of seeking staff (especially if you have a number of openings) when you have urgent needs. The candidate pool may already have been depleted by the competition, so it’s important to be aware of your needs early, be proactive in expanding your staff, and be competitive in your offers to candidates.

Invest in Staff Leadership

To acquire and retain quality managers, pay them well. Low-balling prospective managers will drive quality talent away (especially if looking for a better salary, or if their current employer is willing to match it), or worse: you’ll get what you pay for. And even if a quality candidate does sign on board for small pay cut, comparable money, or even a minor increase, the chance that they’ll leave when a better offer comes along is great. Restaurant turnover is already a challenge for small businesses, but hiring, onboarding, and training new management due to churn is an even greater cost than appropriately compensating good staff. If a stellar offer isn’t possible when bringing on a great candidate, come up with creative ways and a timetable to iteratively move them up to the desired wage if they accept the offer and perform well.

The Added Value of a Staff Member

Quality restaurant personnel bring much more to the table than just “doing their jobs,” and a skilled staff person with a good work ethic, responsible behavior, and efficient job performance can save the business far more than would be spent on a pay increase to acquire or keep them. Food waste from poor kitchen management or preparation errors, for example, can cost thousands of dollars. Good staff can avoid and prevent these losses and are well worth their compensation.

Nurture Company Culture

A high-paying job won’t satisfy long-term (or keep someone in it) if the restaurant’s culture isn’t positive. In addition to a reasonable wage, restaurant employees want (and need) job satisfaction, a healthy and enjoyable company culture, and to feel fulfilled and cared for in their work. This translates to a happier staff, better customer service, and even an improvement in the bottom line as there is less employee churn.

Retain Hourly Staff with Useful Benefits

Creativity in compensation and benefits can help you bring on and keep hourly staff, especially in a crowded marketplace. Do many of your staff use public transportation or paid parking? Offer a transportation pass or stipend to offset these costs. Sign-on bonuses—or, better yet, retention bonuses—encourage new employees to accept your offer and current employees to stay year over year to receive increasing benefits rather than looking elsewhere for a position with a minor hourly increase.

Raise Up Leadership from Within

On top of the culture and benefits, a powerful means to employee satisfaction and great customer service is to invest in your existing staff, training and promoting from within so that hourly staff can rise to salaried management, learn new skills, and invest themselves in the business.

The key to a great restaurant culture is a great restaurant staff. Investing in your team has a direct impact on the success of your business, and is well worth the effort.

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