Employee Hiringstaffing

Restaurant Labor Shortage Continuing and Restauranteurs’ Response

In light of the current seemingly never-ending restaurant labor shortage, we thought we’d go back to restaurant operations 101—the number of employees needed to run a successful establishment and what restaurants are doing to bring them in. If you’re thinking, like I am, that the labor challenges should be easing soon, the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry Mid-Year Update suggests otherwise. According to the NRA, the labor shortage will continue through 2022, and three out of four restaurant owners report that hiring and retaining employees is their biggest challenge.

Restauranteur’s Response to Labor Woes

Spectrum News1 spoke with the owner of Beale’s Texas BBQ in Huntington Beach, CA. Brett Beale reported that he is at his restaurant seven days a week, acting as the dishwasher, cook, and even taking orders. It’s an “all-hands-on-deck situation.” I’m sure that many operators out there can sympathize. The manager, Roshawn Lacy, said he has also worked as a cook, bartender, host, waiter, and more. 

This brings us to the second important point. How, in this environment, do you keep your staff from burnout? 

The Changing Compensation Structure

2022 is the year of the “restaurant perk package.” Many of these are chain restaurants with the income to make sizeable changes in the compensation structure. These include gym memberships, manicures, facials, dinners, massages, and tickets to sporting events. Of course, many argue that this is long overdue, an existential reckoning for a workforce that’s faced long hours and disproportionate compensation.

The Washington Post reported on Knead Hospitality and Design, the parent company of 14 restaurants in Washington, D.C., offering many of these perks as well as testing out a four-day workweek at one of their restaurants. They pointed out that hiring an assistant general manager in 2019 costs the company about $25,000 in recruiting fees and training. Servers are said to cost about $1,000. They believe their perks program takes a proactive stance, giving benefits to their teammates instead of spending it on advertising and training. 

That’s an illustration of the remarkable changes taking place in the restaurant industry. At the same time, what do the 41% of small restaurant business owners that couldn’t pay their May rent do? (That figure is based on a poll of over 5,300 restaurants by Alignable.) Many of these small businesses are not million-dollar establishments with the ability to doll out extra, well-deserved perks. What do they do?   

Open Lines of Communication

There was a time in the restaurant industry when operators rarely talked about the bottom line, and there was a significant demarcation between hourly and salaried workers. Those days have changed. Now, successful restaurant operators are opening the lines of communication. They’re asking their staff what brings them joy and then helping them find a way to integrate those activities into their lives, despite the hours worked. Guests are placed on waitlists, despite seeing open tables. That is the price of doing business post-pandemic.

CNBC reported on Alexandria Restaurant Partners, the parent company of eight restaurants across Northern Virginia and Florida, that has hired two full-time recruiters. The company notes that they now offer better benefits and higher wages than ever before. They also weighed the rising labor costs with the cost of turnovers. 

Building the Best Restaurant Team

One of my early lessons in the restaurant industry was finding out that employees with passion, despite lack of experience, often made the best staff. Their enthusiasm infected the team and made up for any extra required training. Of course, today, as the sign in a restaurant window said, “If you’re breathing, you’re hired.” 

So, how can you obtain qualified workers, whether experienced or those with good intent? One way is to pull good employees from other cities. While that may seem daunting, job posting boards like Culinary Agents and Indeed let you search for candidates across multiple cities. Surprisingly, there are many people with traveling bugs that enjoy the experience of working in different settings and locations. Present your restaurant as a great place to work with on-the-job training and possibly with educational and advancement opportunities, and you can attract workers from other areas.

Technology also offers the ability to increase your workforce with qualified staff. Target Workforce is a proprietary technology that enables employers to find the highest quality trained staff at the lowest recruiting cost. It uses advanced geo-location and targets ads to the right person at the right time. 


How many employees does the average restaurant have?

According to the National Restaurant Association, nine in ten restaurants employed fewer than 50 workers in 2020. These include managers, chefs, cooks, hosts, dishwashers, servers, bus persons, and bartenders. Or, at least, it did. Today, employees are wearing multiple hats in an attempt to keep the door open for what resembles sustainable operating hours. 

As a general rule, full-service restaurants usually aim for one server per shift for every four tables, one host, six BOH employees for 50-60 restaurant covers per shift, and a manager. However, keep in mind that these numbers can vary significantly, depending on your type of restaurant and venue. 

Where do you find good restaurant managers?

Did you know that 80% of restaurant managers started their careers working as entry-level workers? Employees that see you promoting from within are more likely to stay the course, despite the hardships and extra work some endure in our current environment.  


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