The number one issue facing restaurant operators over the last couple of year, as told to us by restauranteurs at all levels in the business, is staffing and turnover. It is so hard to find good people to work in your restaurant and to keep them for any length of time.
I’m sure you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, thank you grad school.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs basically lays out a pyramid of human needs. Stating that you must fulfill the needs at the bottom of the pyramid first, food and water before you can move your way up to the top which is Self Actualization. To put it another way, you can’t become Self Actualized and achieve your dreams if you are huddled, starving, and cold, living in a damp dark cave not knowing when or if you will ever eat again and worried about being killed by an animal. Neanderthals weren’t self-actualized, they most likely spent 99% of their lives in pursuit of basic Physiological Needs. That is why there were no great works of art or literature that came from the caveman.
If there was a Maslow’s Restaurant Hierarchy of needs, then staffing would replace Physiological needs. You can’t run a restaurant without a team of people. We need good people to show up, work and take their jobs seriously. I remember when I was a restaurant manager at a large high volume P.F. Chang’s in the early 00’s. I was the floor manager and the worse part of my job was dealing with night shift call outs that took place every day. I would find myself on the phone after the lunch shift between 2 and 4 calling people to come in and cover shifts that people had called out of. Now a lot has changed with scheduling programs and that is great. It was hell.
What exacerbates the staffing problem in the restaurant industry is that we are always open. If you are a typical restaurant you are open at least 2 shifts a day 363 days a year. When you lose a person, and you don’t have anyone to back them up, customers don’t care. They want food and they want to eat it now. When you can’t find people or the people you have aren’t operating at full capacity because they are new and just out of training, it is the equivalent of your restaurant being deprived of oxygen and water. You can’t do anything else. You have to fill those shifts because the customers are coming.
One of the biggest consequences of not having a fully staffed and trained restaurant team is Restaurant Ops Consistency.
Let’s define Ops Consistency, it is the ability of the restaurant team to execute the daily operations of the restaurant to service guests. It is running the restaurant. It is sidework, it is prep, it is making food and drinks and delivering them to guests, it is menu knowledge, providing tasty and safe food in a clean and inviting environment.
Think about going to a restaurant on the day that it opens, huge mistake. The team is new, they don’t know how to do everything yet, new employees tend to make more mistakes and they work slower, they are green. The guest experience these teams are creating is the product of being brand new at their jobs.
Take this one step further, you could manage a restaurant that has been opened for years but if you have high turnover then you are constantly staffed with a mix of new employees and seasoned employees, in some restaurants the seasoned employees have only been there for a couple of months. The guest experience you are able to provide is going to be inconsistent and less than what an experienced team could provide. Your Ops Consistency, your guest experience, and ultimately your sales and profits will all go down.
OPERATIONS ARE WHAT THE GUEST IS PAYING US TO DO, IT IS THE CORE OF RUNNING A RESTAURANT, IT IS BASIC BLOCKING AND TACKLING. IF YOU DON’T OPERATE WELL YOU WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS!!!
Operations consistency is probably the biggest challenge that is facing operators behind staffing and turnover and because filling shifts is the immediate fire that must be put out on a daily basis, it doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, to the detriment to the business and the industry.
How do you make your operations more consistent in this staffing market?
Understand what your Employees are Costing You and create employee retention incentives:
How often do you give your restaurant employees raises or other incentives to stay with you? Executives in big companies get golden handcuffs, usually in the form of stock options or bonuses, to prevent them from leaving. As an industry, we have to figure out ways to create affordable golden handcuffs for our restaurant employees. If we know the average cost of hiring and training a new restaurant employee is $5,864 based on a report from the Center of Hospitality Research at Cornell University. Then we know that if we can spend less than that number and retain an employee for longer then we are winning. We have already agreed that a more veteran staff is capable of providing better customer experiences than a greener staff and that when you lower turnover it gives management more opportunity to proactively grow their business vs. focusing only on how are they going to get enough bodies to work the next shift.
Restaurant Managers need to understand the ROI for every new employee and job role:
- Calculate how much sales and profits an individual employee in a job role is responsible for creating per hour based off of past sales. The easiest way to do this would be to look at what a fully staffed restaurant looks like from a total hours perspective and divide that number into an average sales figure over a time period. The number you are ultimately trying to get to is how much profit per hour is an employee generating for your business, it is that number that you have to divide into your costs to determine the payback period and ROI for an employee.
- Then calculate your current new hire training costs, employee costs, etc. for each job role. Average out any slight pay differences.
- Look at what the payback period is for each employee, or how long do they have to work for you before they start to generate an actual return on your investment.
Once you have the number of hours an employee has to work before you make a dime on them, you will be able to make smarter decisions. Create incentives for them to stay longer, get rid of bad employees faster. Every restaurant manager tracks labor cost % but very few know how many hours a new employee has to work for them to break even on that investment.
Remember that incentives don’t always have to be monetary but monetary ones will be more effective. Thanking people and buying them a drink or a meal can go a long way. If they make 100 bucks a shift with you and could make 200 a shift across the street, you probably won’t keep them.
One way to approach incentives is to create certifications or levels within their job role, tie skills acquired to pay raises, recognize longevity with raises and privileges. I will start you at $10 an hour and every 90 days that you stay with us, I will give you a $.25 raise. More senior employees get the best shifts, etc..
Be creative and know the actual cost of an employee leaving. Also, carry out exit interviews with no judgment, either over the phone or on an online survey tool. Try to understand why people are leaving so you can correct those problems. Also, if a person reports a reason for leaving that is an improper conduct issue, make sure to report it to HR to protect the company.
Invest in systems more than training:
I’ve said before, in other blogs, and I will say it again. I’m not advocating not training people. We have to train our teams to do their job functions but everything that is a repeatable daily task we should systematize.
Be Aware: The LMS companies will tell you that training is the answer to everything because they want you to buy an LMS system. In reality, training is important but paying people to remember things that are repeatable in nature is waste of time and money.
The culture systems people will tell you that high performing cultures are the most important thing and that you should buy a system that focuses on your culture. Culture has to be experienced by the team at the restaurant and provided by management not preached about.
There is that famous saying ” The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I always think about that when people talk to me about culture. I’ve worked at restaurants where we went through tons of culture training and then the management team wasn’t very good and didn’t live the culture they were preaching.
The reason historically the restaurant industry has put all of our eggs in the training basket when it came to operations consistency wasn’t because it was the most effective way to drive operations consistency it was the only thing you could really control in a multi-unit restaurant operation.
The technology didn’t exist to see what was happening in your operations or to hold your team accountable for following your procedures until the last few years. So everybody just pretended that the reason people weren’t following a procedure was that they didn’t know how to do that task. In reality, it was because they didn’t want to or didn’t remember or didn’t care about following the procedure as there was no consequence for not.
Things don’t get done in restaurants because management isn’t holding people accountable for following procedures. I’ve seen it myself, some set-up item isn’t done at the restaurant, if you walk up to the employee responsible and ask if they know how to do it, they can do it. They don’t need to be trained, they need to be reminded to do the task and held accountable for getting it done.
We as an industry have to break away from how we used to run restaurants and look at this situation critically. If you know that an average employee is only going to stay 6 months would you train them as if they are going to be with you for 10 years? Of course not. The reality is this; your employees will leave if they can make more money across the street. Stop training them on stuff that they don’t need to do their immediate job to lower your risk and cost.
Instead, invest in systems that can help employees become more productive quicker and that also increase your Ops Consistency. OpsAnalitica is Shift Readiness and Ops Consistency platform that allows you to script out the perfect shift in every location. It allows you to define what needs to be done every day from the manager to each job position so that those employees don’t have to think or remember what needs to be done.
OpsAnalitica can provide on the spot training and detailed instructions which will get employees productive quicker and ensure that all crucial tasks can be completed in a timely manner. OpsAnlitica provides you with real-time visibility into your operations so your location and above store management can see what is happening in the restaurant and take immediate action to ensure that Ops Standards are being executed and that guests are being taken care of. Most importantly it provides leadership with a feed of restaurant operations information so they can make data-driven decisions about their businesses.
This is one of the toughest restaurant labor markets in history. A combination of generational demographic changes, a strong economy, and overstepping government interference has made it harder and harder to find, train, compensate and retain good employees. In addition to the stress of having to constantly find, hire and train new employees to keep the restaurant staffed. The second biggest consequence of this tight labor market is Operations Consistency.
Restaurants that suffer from high turnover always have a large complement of new employees who don’t have as much experience and aren’t as capable of delivering the same level of service as more experienced employees. The restaurants aren’t able to get ahead because all efforts are spent just keeping the restaurant fully staffed, leaving management little room to make the strategic decisions needed to grow their businesses.
Restaurant managers have to invest the time to create an ongoing and increasing incentive program to keep employees for longer to maximize their ROI on each employee. Restaurant companies need to invest more into systems, OpsAnalitica, that can take the guesswork out of running the restaurants for each position every shift and to focus on holding their teams accountable to following their procedures. By providing a system that can dictate what needs to be done and when, managers can get employees more productive quicker and reduce onboarding and training time, reducing those costs will increase employee ROI.
Your restaurant’s sales and profits and your strategic goals are going to suffer if you aren’t able to find, train, incentivize employees, and provide them with the systems that are going to make them better faster while ensuring that your operations consistency in every location is maintained. Ops consistency systems and retention incentives have to be your top priority for the long-term success of your restaurant.