Among the most significant business consequences of the pandemic is an epidemic — a hiring epidemic. While we haven’t been immune to this nationwide problem, we’re weathering it better than other restaurants, so I am frequently asked how we have a relatively full staff. It’s because we not only focus on hiring, but on staff retention.
You cannot merely pay lip service to these items. If you’ve been keeping track of Building Blocks, you’ll recall we discussed the process of providing your staff with regular pay raises, which remains important even in lean times. However, just as essential is making your employees feel valued and appreciated by listening and acting on their needs and concerns. Many times, in fact, we have shifted our pay scale, hours of operation, items on the menu and the way we do business just from listening to our staff.
But another strategy that benefits both employees and your business is developing incentive programs. Here are three easy ones you can get cracking on ASAP:
Employee of the month programs, honoring someone who gives an extra-special effort, are tried and true. It’s special for someone to see their picture hanging in the store, but we add a bonus reward with a $50 Visa gift card, which gives a little more motivation to win the award. For our manager of the month program, we provide a $100 gift card and special shirt that makes them a member of our “Caliente Wolfpack.” Beyond the monthly programs, we hand out shirts that display how many years of service a particular staffer has, recognizing their contributions and building on our team atmosphere.
There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, so we run internal contests throughout the year. They might be individual or location based. For example, who sells the most of a specific product? What store puts together the best holiday decorations? Rewards might be gift cards for an individual or taco parties for a store. We’ve found the staff looks forward to these programs throughout the year.
Events and trips
Beyond any recognition or contests, staffers most look forward to our summer picnic event. Every year, we close shop for a day and gather at a local park for live entertainment, bouncy houses, beer and food. The staff can bring their whole family to this event. The only thing to match it is our holiday party in December. In previous years, we’ve rented bowling
alleys, restaurants and even a ferry boat for the event, providing an open bar, buffet, music, door prizes and (the staff favorite) karaoke. We also hand out individual awards — more than 20 of them in the past year — with the prizes ranging from pro sports tickets to vacations.
My personal favorite incentive is bringing staffers along to industry conventions. As many as 24 employees have joined our leadership at Pizza Expo in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and we provide our guests with meals, transportation and entertainment.
Each of these efforts play a role in encouraging employee retention, but they are hardly the only strategies. Get creative for your own. Remember, hanging on to the staff you have is as important as bringing in new talent. And in the next edition of Building Blocks, we’ll break down the other half of the equation: how to stay active in hiring every day.
NICK BOGACZ is the founder and president of Caliente Pizza & Draft House in Pittsburgh. Instagram: @caliente_pizza