Ideas to Manage Staffing Shortage in Your Restaurant Business

labor cost restaurant labor
Ideas to Manage Staffing Shortage in Your Restaurant Business

Every week I’m on calls with restaurant owners like you talking about their daily challenges, including the current staffing shortage. These calls – either discovery calls with restaurant owners looking for solutions or the members of my group coaching program – are a great way for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the daily lives of restaurant owners. I'm usually hearing what’s going on in the restaurant industry weeks before the media ever picks it up. Because of that weekly connection, I’ve been helping restaurant business owners manage the staffing shortage and find solutions so they can keep their doors open. Click below or keep scrolling for some real ideas and solutions my members have implemented to managed the staffing shortage.  

I'm sure I don't need to beat a dead horse, if you will, and explain that we're experiencing a severe labor shortage in the restaurant industry. I don't even want to go into the reasons why we are in this situation because the list is long. What I do want to do is tell you what my members are doing to get through this labor shortage, and some are even thriving. 

Number one: they are changing their menus. During this labor shortage, I’ve been working with my members’ recipe costing cards and their point of sale sales mix report. I do what I call a menu profitability monitor. I analyze their menu, find their ideal food cost and discuss ways to reduce their food cost. This way they identify the items that have high prep and require lots of labor, which if removed from the menu, shrinks labor cost. I've had members who have dropped complete sections from their menu, even if they were popular, because the prep was so intensive, and they didn't have the man hours to do it. 

They did the investigative work on their menus and make the decision that to deliver the best experience to their guests while also managing the labor dollars.  

Number two: learn to stagger start your employees on the schedule. This means literally staggering your employees’ start times throughout the day because every 15 minutes counts. I have members who are using their mid-shifts and reducing hours on some days so they can be used on another day, making it easier to staff their businesses with the team they have right now. 

Number three: closing one or two days a week. This is not my favorite solution. In fact, I've been coaching since 2003, and this is the first year I have ever started telling my members to close their doors. But you must value your people.  

People work in the restaurant industry, I believe, because they want flexibility. They can change their schedules at any time and do what they want. But instead, if you work them to death, forcing them to work overtime every week, they will burn out. They won't want to be in the business and the labor shortage only gets worse. If you don’t have enough people to work, closing your restaurant one or two days a week to give two guaranteed days off could be a solution for you.  

Number four: raise wages. Look, I get it. Depending on where you are, minimum wage is already going up to $15 an hour. That can be crippling if you don't have a budget. If you’ve been paying attention to my YouTube channel and watching these tips, you understand the importance of a budget. You've got one in place, right?  

I have members who have raised their wages considerably to stand out in a crowded field because there are only so many people who are applying. Plus, candidates are ghosting employers, never showing up for an interview much less to work. Some of the restaurant owners I work with have made the decision to increase wages because they have a budget. They know where they can take their wages and what they have to do with their menus to offset that increase. If you want to do this, you must have a budget 

Number five, pull out a short menu on the fly. I have members who have a second menu in the wings, if you will. It's the same menu but shortened. They know the items they can kick out pretty quickly with maybe a weaker or smaller labor team and that’s what they keep on the menu. This way, in the middle of a rush, when they start to see those tickets are getting back up and they know the kitchen's on its way down, they literally swap the menus. They beautiful part is they don't have to program the POS system because it’s all items that are already on the menu. It is really powerful.  

This is just a short list of some actionable ideas you can implement in your restaurant business right now in order to get through this labor shortage. If there's one thing I know it's that this challenge will pass. I have no idea when, but it will, just like all the other challenges the restaurant industry has faced in the past. And when this challenge is over, another one will take its place for sure. That’s the nature of the restaurant business.  

Do you want to know the ultimate solution to all these problems? It’s you. Reframe your challenges and look at how you can solve them rather than look for who to blame. Be the leader your restaurant needs and take action.  

If you would like to learn how to own a restaurant that doesn't depend on you being in it to be successful, watch this free video course that teaches you three key principles to running a successful restaurant. If you're ready right now to make some serious changes in your restaurant, you can also book a 60-minute call with me where we talk about your challenges and figure out exactly what is holding you back from having a restaurant that doesn’t depend on you being in it to be successful. 

Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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