restaurant culture staffFinding, retaining and engaging employees are the three main challenges the restaurant industry is facing in 2019. The proof is in the data. According to TDn2K’s 2019 Recruiting and Turnover Report, 25 percent of full service and 35 percent of limited service brands report being understaffed at any given time. These staffing problems are severe at the management level, with 52 percent of companies reporting they are typically understaffed for managers.

To add insult to injury, more employees are leaving voluntarily and quicker than expected. Half of hourly front-of-house and 53 percent of back-of-house employees are leaving within the first 90 days of employment. Increased turnover does not bode well for the restaurant industry when we are dealing with historically low unemployment rates and competing with other restaurants for talent (read A Sustainable Approach to Winning the Battle for Market Share: Combat Turnover). These unemployment rates likely will not raise as long as the economy continues to expand.

Why are employees leaving?

Both management and non-management employees left for higher paying jobs. Employees in management also left due to opportunities for a promotion at another company. This presents numerous areas of opportunities to up the game in terms of what is offered to attract and keep employees. Offering higher base pay is a common incentive, as well as offering a referral bonus.

In addition to having a great offering, selection matters. Even though turnover is high, and unemployment is low, taking the time to find the right fit for your open positions can keep you from doing it again in 90 days. Provide in-depth orientation and give new employees more time to learn about your culture. Pay is important but what are you offering beyond that? How is the experience that you are providing today better than what was experienced at a previous employer?

Work/life balance is another area of opportunity for operators to enhance the experience for their employees, particularly general managers. According to research from GM Connect, powered by Gallup and TDn2K, only 12 percent of general managers strongly agree that they can maintain a healthy balance between work and life. A staggering 11 percent strongly agree their job allows them to spend enough time with family and friends.

Much of the general manager crisis can be mitigated through better staffing. Putting more assistant managers and hourly staff in each location provides added support and alleviates a lot of the burden from the general manager. Setting the general manager up for success in this way will in turn, naturally improve their work/life balance. When there is less reactionary work required from the general manager, the nature of the business becomes better and turnover rates improve.

The Role of Technology in Contributing Toward a Better Work Culture

Technology plays a huge part in providing a better work/life balance, as well as inject more stability into the workplace. Tools that provide accurate forecasting based on data give general managers more control, contributing toward the creation of realistic schedules. When good managers are presented with good data, the bottom line is hugely improved. Better schedules lend improved consistency, thus improved margins. This impact on teams is significant, often yielding happier people.

The average hospitality worker is a digital native and is demanding more of it at work. The ability to pick up or swap shifts at the click of a button can alleviate a lot of stress for staff. Collaboration tools enable managers to communicate remotely with team members and inject the feeling of stability in the workplace. Nonetheless, while technology is front and center, people and culture remain key to success.

How Hard is it to Drive Great Culture when Historically it Hasn’t Been Good?

Any change is hard, but it is not impossible. Restaurants in this situation have the unique challenge of having to re-brand themselves without making name or menu changes. When there is a solid plan in place and the fundamentals are fixed, real change can be made. The people that transform their business accept the inconveniences until they come out the other end.

When every action or decision is linked to an overarching objective, everyone will come along for the journey. The industry has a clear opportunity to find ways to boost greater satisfaction among teams and drive retention beyond the realm of pay and financial benefits. It is the teams that stay together that drive the business in the long term.

This text is a recap of Leveraging Culture as a Competitive Advantage, a collaborative webinar between TDn2K and Fourth.

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