Today’s Restaurant Workforce Model is Broken – Here’s How You Can Fix It

By September 1, 2021 Blog
Restaurant staff serving customers

What’s the number one challenge facing the restaurant industry right now?

Restaurants are open and hiring again, but an estimated 1 million people have not returned to their jobs.

Many restaurateurs have looked to external factors like federal unemployment subsidies as the reason for this, but surveys and recent news reports are placing the industry’s real workforce problem much closer to home. For example, a quick survey of the workforce news headlines at Restaurant Business Online since the beginning of August lists these topics:

  • Doing away with tip credits
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage
  • Unionization of restaurant workers
  • Increased benefits like higher pay and free college tuition

For restaurant operators who are more interested in solving their workforce problem than placing blame, here are some important points to consider.


What Exactly Is Broken?

The restaurant industry is in a good news / bad news situation:

  • According to a recent report published by Black Box Intelligence™ and Snagajob, the four driving factors contributing to the restaurant staffing shortage are wages and benefits, challenges related to childcare, better opportunities for advancement in other industries, and concerns about workers’ own physical and mental health.
  • On the other hand, 66% of employees who have left the restaurant industry would be willing to return if the right conditions were met.

Let’s consider how this breaks down…

Compensation and Benefits

The forced closures during the pandemic gave restaurant workers the chance to look around, compare notes, and ask themselves some hard questions — specifically, why would they stay in a high-stress job making as little as $2.13 an hour, without any minimum income guarantee, healthcare coverage or opportunities for advancement, when they can take their customer service skills to another industry and make $15 an hour or more working a consistent schedule with career opportunities and full benefits?


According to Restaurant Business Online, 62% of respondents to their workforce survey said they’d suffered emotional abuse and disrespect from customers; 49% reported that same sort of abuse from managers.


According to Modern Restaurant Management, even pre-pandemic, the average length of time a worker stayed on the job in the food service industry was just under 60 days, with onboarding taking just over 10 days. Lost revenue and replacement costs alone total nearly $6,000 per employee — and with the average restaurant employing 25 staff, this represents a potential loss of nearly $150,000 per year per location depending on actual turnover rate. Not only is this expensive, but its indirect effects are also hard on employee morale and the customer experience.


What Are the Fixes?

Any restaurant that doesn’t change its paradigm to focus on employee retention will always have to focus on acquisition and hiring. Here are some tactics restaurants are developing to better welcome and support their employees and boost benefits.

Quality of Life

The most obvious fix has been to increase wages and offer more comprehensive benefits like paid time off, employee profit-sharing, and same-day direct deposit for wages. However, improving your employees’ quality of life also extends to:

  • Adopting contactless technologies to keep both your teams and your customers safe
  • Prioritizing your employees’ physical and mental health through access to advocacy groups and telehealth services
  • Offering flexible scheduling to address employees’ concerns about childcare, school attendance, etc.


Another key to employee retention is your corporate culture: Are your employees treated like valued team members, or commodities? Onboarding and training should be complete, effective, ongoing, and representative of your chain’s goals and culture. Other cultural keys include recognition for good work and maintaining a positive atmosphere in the workplace.


No one plans to work in a dead-end job their whole life. In the restaurant industry, where tasks are highly repetitive, cross-training and career progression are great tools to support employee satisfaction. Cross-training also supports your current staffing challenges by ensuring everyone knows how to do everything, from customer service to delivery and kitchen work, which supports staffing flexibility.


It’s a truism in office work that employees don’t quit bad jobs; they quit bad supervisors. Today’s restaurant industry is experiencing the same trend. Improve manager-employee relationships by opening the lines of communication and keeping them open. Managers who know the individual preferences and challenges of their employees can, for instance, develop a more supportive work schedule. Employees who feel heard and valued are more satisfied with their jobs no matter their responsibilities. Another way to support both rapport and advancement may be to limit the number of employees a manager directly oversees and expand the management team to include assistant managers or shift leads.


How a Simple App Can Solve These Challenges

In an environment that is repetitive and chaotic, retention grows when restaurant employees know what to expect on a daily basis. Doing what you can with the tips above will help, but something as simple as a mobile app can’t really help – or can it?

As a checklist and auditing app, MeazureUp was created to digitize all the paper-based compliance documentation required of restaurants. However, we’ve found it can also support numerous employee retention efforts:

  • MeazureUp can be customized to standardize and house all your employee onboarding and training materials, from forms to videos. New hires complete only the training that is relevant to their job descriptions, and they can complete it anywhere.
  • When it’s time to cross-train, additional training is easy to assign and complete, with all training documentation automatically saved in the cloud with the results available at any time.
  • While on the job, employees use MeazureUp to complete daily checklists and document tasks. It’s quick and easy to use, and job instructions can be accessed with a click. If employees have questions, their trainers and managers can be quickly contacted, no matter their location. No employee is ever left to feel isolated or uninformed.
  • As so much of their job performance is saved in the app, employees can check their own metrics whenever they like and easily see their own areas for improvement. Assessments can be based on objective data that is fully transparent to employees as well as managers.
  • Because MeazureUp does so much to streamline administrative and documentary tasks, managers get more time to focus on “soft” management skills like developing rapport with their employees, improving communication, offering mentorship, and modeling true leadership.

To learn how MeazureUp can help you improve your restaurant chain’s workforce model, visit