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04 May, 2022

5 Ways To Keep Your Restaurant Running Despite the Worker Shortage


The last few years haven’t been easy on the hospitality industry. And now, as restaurants prepare for their first summer post-pandemic, many are having difficulties hiring new staff to cope with demand.

According to Restaurants Canada, 80% of employers had a difficult time hiring back-of-house staff and 67% had a difficult time hiring front-of-house staff. So how do you prepare for a busy summer season if you can’t hire enough staff? We’ve put together a few strategies:


1. Increase Worker Compensation

The easiest way to keep employees engaged is to pay them more. Right now, your staff is likely struggling with rising inflation just as much as your business is. They will be tempted away by industries with higher wages and better hours.

According to 7Shifts, more than half of the restaurant industry employees in the US are paid either at or below the median living wage. By increasing wages by as little as $2,000 per year per employee, you can bring your employees in line with the median living wage. Which means they are more likely to stay.

But, for many restaurants, raising wages while dealing with rising food costs, and general inflation isn’t realistic. When the Ohio restaurant association did a business impact poll, only 42% of restaurants in the state said they planned to raise wages. Many of them were looking at other compensation options.

You can be creative by looking at your employees’ entire compensation package. Look at medical benefits, free meals, tip structure, bonuses, and everything else your employees get for working for you.

For example, you could help them increase their tips. This could mean coaching your team on customer service, setting up tip prompts on your mobile ordering, or pre-setting tip amounts in your POS. TipHaus gave tips on tipping best practices in this article.


2. Reduce Employee Turnover

How long does your average team member work for you? A few months? A few years? It’s expensive and time-consuming to replace and train employees.

Cornell Hospitality puts the cost of employee turnover at $5,600 per employee. The cost is broken up into productivity loss, recruitment, and training. Their study points out that employees become less motivated before quitting, and their productivity drop also impacts the productivity of the rest of the team.

So, instead of hiring, spend your time and money on keeping your existing staff. If you spend less than $5,600 to keep an employee, then you are still saving money, even if you increase wages or offer new benefits.


3. Make Your Operations More Efficient

Before you get excited about automation tools and new ways to increase your efficiency, the first step is to audit what your employees do during a shift. Take note of every small task needed to take an order, enter it into the system, get it made in the kitchen, and deliver it to the customer. What big and small projects take up your employees’ time? What cleaning, inventory, or administrative tasks take the most time in a shift?

Make sure to include your employees in the process; ask them questions and their opinions about processes in your restaurant. In order for any changes you make to be successful, you have to have the buy-in of your team.


Simplify, Outsource, & Automate

Flag anything that could be made simpler, outsourced, or entirely automated. What tasks can you do without when you have less staff on hand? Do you have yearly projects (like repainting walls or cleaning machines) that could be pushed to quieter months?

Use software to automate order entry, fulfillment, and delivery dispatching. Make the most of self-serve kiosks, online ordering, kitchen CSK systems, and accounting systems.

And finally, for projects like window cleaning, minor repairs, or deep cleans, consider outsourcing to a handyman or cleaning company. While outsourcing may seem more expensive than labor you’re already paying for, you need to remember the opportunity cost of your staff. Any time they are working on these types of projects, they aren’t helping your customers.


Fix Equipment & Eliminate Workarounds

What workarounds have your team developed due to broken systems? For instance, do your staff re-enter orders from your online ordering site into your POS? Or, do they have to hit the espresso machine a certain way to get it to turn on? Make sure all your software is properly integrated, and your equipment is all in working order. If you are a high-volume location, consider having redundant equipment in case something breaks. 


4. Encourage Online & Mobile Orders

Online ordering, self-serve kiosks, and mobile ordering apps are fantastic ways to free up your staff. Every order placed online or at a kiosk is one less order that your cashiers need to enter into the system. That will help you streamline your process even more, and cut down on the minimal amount of staff needed to run your restaurant.

If you’re looking for ways to encourage customers to order ahead through a mobile app, read the article How To Get Your Customers To Download Your App.


5. Ramp Up Hiring in Advance

And finally, the most obvious way to deal with a worker shortage is to try hiring earlier and more people. If you need ten new employees to deal with a busy summer, then you need to hire fifteen new employees between February and May.

To find out how many employees you need to hire to account for employee turnover, calculate your employee turnover rate, and multiply it by the total number of employees you’ll need during the busy season. That will be the number of extra employees you will need to hire.

Are you looking for more ideas on how you can keep your restaurant running on reduced labor? Watch this on-demand webinar about restaurant labor and efficiency.

Picture of Amin Yazdani
Written By: 

Amin Yazdani is the CEO and Co-Founder of Craver, a fast-growing mobile platform for Restaurants, helping them gain and retains their loyal customer base.

Summer Worker Shortage: How to Keep Your Restaurant Running