How to Weather the Restaurant Labor Shortage and Stay on Course

By Jason Bench September 15, 2021 Blog, Restaurant
waitress smiling

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” James Dean

The labor shortage has restaurants in a bind. As of March this year, 7.7% of restaurant and hotel jobs were unfilled. Even as demand increases, restaurants have been forced to shorten hours and limit service. And workers are getting frustrated and exhausted.

With fewer people available, it’s time to find ways to run a strong operation with a leaner crew. That means increasing efficiency, building a robust, flexible staff, and retaining your best people. This is also the time to look for technology that saves labor and boosts productivity.

Waste No Steps – Go for Maximum Efficiency

When you need more productivity from fewer people, look for ways to work smarter:

  • Simplified procedures save time.
  • Reducing mistakes lowers expenses.
  • Refocusing your goals makes it easier to succeed.
  • Automating simple tasks does some of the work for you.

Simplify procedures.

Take a look at how things are getting done. Can you streamline a process for less wasted time? For example, how are cleaning tasks accomplished? Does each employee know their responsibilities and are the supplies readily available? Making small improvements can improve productivity overall and save hours of wasted time.

You can also streamline processes with checklists that walk staff through each task. Many of our customers use MeazureUp’s DailyChex app to formalize new and better procedures and implement them across all locations quickly.

Reduce errors.

When the pressure heats up and a maxed-out team is overwhelmed, they make mistakes. Mistakes generate extra work and can even rack up additional costs or impact revenue. When you’re running lean, you don’t have margin for errors.

Help your harried team avoid costly blunders by formalizing essential procedures into checklists. Checklists have been used in critical, high-pressure environments such as the military and health care since the 1930s. They greatly reduce human error when it matters most.

Modern checklists, like MeazureUp’s DailyChex, improve on the old paper versions by putting checklists on mobile devices where your staff can access the right list when they need it. As a bonus, DailyChex compiles each worker’s task completion within and across locations so you can see how employees are performing in real time and feel confident that operations are proceeding smoothly.

Adjust the menu.

Remove labor-intensive items from the menu or replace them with easier dishes. Adjusting your offerings saves time in the kitchen and eases the burden on less experienced staff.

If your brand would suffer too much from changing the menu, consider offering customer discounts for time-saving orders. For example, run specials on beer and wine to nudge customers toward those drinks instead of cocktails. Or give discounts for take-out orders, which require less front-of-house (FOH) staff.

Add automation.

New technology can help you save time and improve productivity. For instance, many restaurants are adopting point-of-sale terminals so customers can handle their own orders and payments.

But during a labor shortage, make sure any technology you select takes little effort to install and use. If it takes months to set up and requires extensive specialized support, your new tech isn’t going to ease the labor issues quickly. Look for easy-to-use applications that punch above their weight class.

Invest in People – Train and Retain Your All-Stars

When you need every person to perform optimally, training becomes crucial to success. It even encourages workers to stay. Recent workplace polling has shown that 88% of workers feel training is important to their jobs and 63% feel more valued when training is offered.

  • Improved onboarding turns new hires into assets faster.
  • Performance coaching boosts productivity.
  • Happy employees stay for the long run.

Standardize new-hire training to ramp up skills.

When you find a good candidate, it’s crucial to make their first few days positive and productive. That means you need to be organized and prepared to offer consistent, comprehensive onboarding even while you’re struggling to manage day-to-day activities.

MeazureUp’s DailyChex application speeds up initial training by 30% while ensuring consistency across all locations. You can ensure new employees are introduced to all the systems and equipment with training programs, videos and checklists new folks can access anytime from anywhere.

Coach individuals to improve performance.

Employees at all levels need on-going coaching and support. But you don’t have the time to pull everyone off the job for general training sessions. You need to quickly identify where individuals or teams are falling behind, coach them through it, and monitor performance to ensure they’ve mastered the skill. Of course, you have to run a business, too.

MeazureUp’s AuditApp makes this crucial coaching manageable and efficient. The automated assessments will help you identify weak points for individuals, teams and even groups of restaurants. Then you know exactly who needs help, and you can guide them back to top performance quickly.

Focus on employee needs to lower turnover.

When there’s fewer workers available, you want to keep the experienced, quality people you already have. Encourage your team to stick around by rewarding great performance, making your restaurant an excellent place to work, and responding to employee needs.

People want to make meaningful contributions at work. They want to feel appreciated and important. Praise consistent strong performers and thank them. Congratulate a whole restaurant’s team for good survey feedback and good field audits. Set performance goals and incentivize teams with bonuses or a party.

Improve the overall working environment by keeping equipment in repair, providing necessary supplies and offering personal space for breaks. Consider offering perks like shift meals or bonuses for staff who fill in for no-shows.

Finally, check in with your people regularly, at all levels of the organization. Ask honest questions about what they like and don’t like about working there, what could improve, and what makes their jobs hard. It’s especially important to conduct exit interviews. You may be surprised to learn something simple that will keep more skilled people on your team.

MeazureUp offers easy-to-use tools that help you ride out the labor shortage and emerge as a stronger operation.

  • Consistent, effective, and fast training
  • Real-time performance monitoring
  • Coaching support
  • Checklists for improved quality and fewer mistakes

Curious how MeazureUp could help your business? Get a free trial here.