Currently, the restaurant industry is in the most significant hiring crisis in modern history. Monetary and governmental issues aside, the way to rise above these pitfalls is through high morale and keying into staff’s direct motivators. What makes them excited to work for you instead of any alternative? Theoretically, the answer is obvious, money; but as someone who has tried everything, new hire initiatives, signing bonuses, I can tell there is more to it than that. Staff needs to know you care. The staff needs to know that you care about them, the restaurant, the product and everyone’s well-being.
Now, I don’t doubt for a second that you, someone conscientious enough to read an article about employee management, cares for your staff. But are you outwardly and noticeably conveying that? Do you have a tangible reward system? Do you have something as simple as a “treasure chest,” i.e., some fun candy items or gift cards available to give out when an employee kills it? I say candy because it’s a lot easier to give fun and cheap rewards daily than giving gift cards daily. I believe in doing both and keeping morale and fun surprises around every corner. It’s not childish. It’s not unprofessional. It’s a mandate to have a staff who wants to work for you and wants their friends to work with them for you. Daily contests for pizza makers who get prep done on time are a win.
Additionally, server incentives for those whose average ticket price are higher, not only build sales, it builds esteem and healthy competition. Healthy competition makes the day go by faster, and a built-in reward structure makes that effort fun and worth it. If not candy, whatever affordable item you can have at the ready for your staff that they actually like.
Having a help-wanted sign does you no favors. It screams, “people don’t want to work here.” Even giving a startup bonus, I’ve found, doesn’t do much. To move the needle takes constant motivation and connecting with your staff. Moving the needle means that everyone feels part of something. Filming a fun or endearing video of your current staff and why they like working there will go further than any sign. Keep it under 45 seconds and post it as much as possible to get a leg up in the hiring fight.
When Covid was at its height, you probably backed off on hiring. You weren’t seeking to hire as many servers as possible, mainly because you didn’t know if you could guarantee work. That’s completely understandable but bear in mind, you reap what you sow. For not continually hiring and training, we all have less staff. Unemployment and individual extenuating circumstances for sure play a role, but continually hiring through new job posts and interviewing all candidates can never be put on the back burner.
The caveat to our current situation, with sales booming, is to back off on marketing. I am telling you now, 100 percent for a fact, this boom will end, and if you have no marketing seeds planted, you will be at square one when you least expect it. You might be hesitant to spend money on marketing when you can barely fulfill orders. But just like any harvest, even when it’s a fantastic harvest, you still need to plant seeds if you ever want to have another crop. You can’t back off on marketing now because you’re inundated, nor could you back off on training when you finally do staff up. You have to keep sowing, so you can keep reaping in all aspects of this business.
Staff morale, staff training, marketing, system investment, fiscal discipline, quality control, ambiance, system functionality, equipment maintenance, you MUST continually sow so you can constantly reap. Never take your eyes off the prize. And that is what perpetuates flowing success rather than simply spurts of it.
MIKE BAUSCH is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch