How to Keep Restaurant Employees Happy and Why You Should Care – Podcast Ep 32
I don’t need to tell you about the labor crisis in the restaurant and hospitality industry. You’re living it day in and day out, running short-staffed or running with less-than-ideal employees. In fact, Restaurant Business reported in an online article entitled “Restaurant Workers are Quitting at Historically High Rates” that nearly 7% of the nation’s restaurant and hotel workers quit their jobs in August of 2021. They went on to say no other industry came close to that level of voluntary departures. In this episode of Restaurant Prosperity Formula, I’m talking about some of the reasons people are leaving the industry and how you can deal with that in your restaurant.
It’s the fourth quarter and it’s time to re-recruit your employees, find out what makes them happy and come up with ways to keep them satisfied. I offer ideas for how to approach your employees, things you can do to meet their needs, cover how you can afford it and other resources to help you during this ongoing crisis. Your restaurant’s success and your future freedom depend on them!
As an industry, we have a problem. With the fourth quarter upon us, people are about to start assessing their lives. This is the “New Year, New Me” time when people ask questions of themselves, such as “Hey, do I like my job? Do I like my partner? Do I like the way my life is going? What are the things I want to do in 2022 to improve any aspect of my life?”
For some, this means your restaurant, the job they have with you, could be on the block.
It's hard to find new employees, but it's even harder to replace the ones we have. This doesn’t mean you should build your operations around mediocre employees, or around people who push you around. In fact, I'd rather run short-staffed than have the wrong people on my team. But you do want to recognize the people on your team who stuck it out with you – whether it was through the initial shutdown and pivot to take-out orders, of if you hired people mid-pandemic, and they’re sticking with you even through these most recent ups and downs.
You've done incredible things for your team because they're family to you, and you feel like that buys the loyalty that they're going to stay with you. Well, the truth matter is it it's wonderful. Don't stop being you. Your core values are important. They are who you are. But understand that those nice things were good for right now. Your employees are loyal to themselves first. They have to do what's best for themselves and if they've got a family, what's best for their family.
How do you keep the people you have in place right now?
Number one, sit down with each team member. Be present, put your back to the door and ask some really good questions. Thank them for staying with you, for getting you through COVID, for working their butts off with the extra shifts, working hard, working short-staffed, being a part of the team, how important it was and what their contribution was to not only the community and your customers, your guests, but the other team members. I think it's really important that you share with them how important it was and is what they've been doing. Ask them what kept them working with you. You’ll probably be surprised what you learn from their answers. Ask them what you can do to keep them with you and keep them happy.
In every industry employees want to feel appreciated. That doesn't mean liked, it means that you truly appreciate what they contribute to the business, that they're part of something bigger, that they're important to the team.
Number two, start thinking about promotions and raises. I’m going to talk about how to pay for those raises, but first, let's think about promotions in the restaurant industry. Let's assume right now your have some lead employees, some really good employees, maybe they've been with you for a long time but don’t have a title. They do their job well, and they do all these extra things. Maybe it's time we give them a title, such as team lead manager or training shift supervisor. Then pay them for that when they work that job to make them feel more important to the team. That goes along with giving them new job responsibilities whether you give them a title or not. This could be the difference between keeping great employees or losing them because they’re tired walking the circle and don’t feel appreciated. The bottom line is making their jobs more meaningful can keep people around.
Now let's talk about the money part. To your employees, more money is never a bad thing. And I will tell you, as an industry, we've been worried about this debate over a $15 minimum wage from coast to coast, squeezing its way in from California to New York. We have many states losing tip credit, and we already have $10, $12, $13, $14 an hour, on the way to $15 and hour. We worried what it was going to do to our industry, but I think the debate over a $15 minimum wage is over. Unofficially it’s here and restaurants all over the country are paying it. I have many members that are now looking at $18 plus for those starting line cooks. They’re also doing things like taking their other line employees up from cashiers to servers and so on at the same time. It’s not only to keep people but to attract people to be at the top of the marketplace because it's so hard to find people during this labor crisis. So our industry is starting to take care of one of the things that was driving people away, hard work at low wages.
Number three, budget, budget, budget. If you’re a regular listener and following, you know how important budgets are. If you're new to finding me and listening to my podcast, I want you to go to YouTube and look up David Scott Peters. Make sure it’s the channel with my photo on it. Search for videos about budgets. Once you’ve consumed that content, I want to share Budget Builder MVP, which is a Google spreadsheet that I had programmed like software along with a video lesson to teach you how to use it. (If you buy my book, it's chapter four.) Simply email me at David at david scott peters dot com, tell me you listened to episode 32 of The Restaurant Prosperity Formula podcast, and you'd love the budget worksheet. Only with a budget can you find the way to pay for higher wages. Using the budget worksheet, you can look at raising prices, set new targets for food and labor costs and understand the whole picture, not just one piece of it. Because now with a budget, you can create your plan for success, how you're going to overcome the increased wages.
Number four, go back and listen to episode 23 of my podcast and learn how you can become an employer of choice. See, I told you at the beginning of this that all the stats show that our industry has been in a downward spiral. People are fleeing the industry. Become an industry leader. Set the standard for how to treat people better, make them feel appreciated, offer good supervision, good pay, a clean, safe work environment. People want jobs that mean something, like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
You can become the leader your restaurant needs and change it in your business. Running a restaurant was never easy and it's only gotten harder. This end-of-the-year approach, this re-recruitment of your employees, is critical to your success.