The service industry has long been considered an industry of opportunity. Many of today’s small and not-so-small business owners started as dishwashers, servers, and line cooks. The service industry has a way of molding young people into future leaders. It pushes people through its ranks and layers them with valuable skills that can be used in any occupation.
Under the crushing hand of the pandemic, we witnessed the buoyancy of our workforce. Many legacy workers tried to stay loyal to the industry through the threat of illness, lockdowns, layoffs, and closures. As the pandemic waned and restaurants were slowly allowed to reopen, we found some workers who tried to wait it out couldn’t. Instead, they used those transferable skills learned working in restaurants to gain employment in other open industries willing to take a chance on them. This was starting to become evident in January 2021 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released shocking numbers showing nearly three-quarters of the service industry out of work yet reported slight growth in other sectors.
With lockdowns in the rearview mirror, our industry faces a labor deficit of experienced personnel. The main reason for hospitality workers not returning to the industry is up for debate. The slew of excuses as to why varies. From workers’ fear of the virus and unemployment check paydays to the opportunity to leave an industry they find abusive, there is no shortage of speculation. To get to the truth, the service industry will undoubtedly be digging through the piles of accusations from labor groups, employment data, and post-pandemic economic realities for years to come.
Experienced VS Newbie
The reality is that many seasoned workers have decided to move on. A new workforce is slowly replacing long-time industry professionals with less or no experienced workers with a different attitude regarding what it means to be an employee. The new normal suggests that employers are the bad guys and workers are victims of harmful practices, low wages, and a long list of fabulized abuses that workers new to the industry believe are part in parcel of the job. Furthermore, the expectation is that nothing is earned, and employers must offer the world without the employee’s ambition, hard work, and proven success.
As employers begin to hire this new crop of workers, it becomes clear that the plug-and-play hiring of the past no longer works. Experienced and accomplished candidates with stellar resumes rarely walk through the door. New ways of applying for jobs via the internet that less experienced workers use can build barriers between employers and prospective employees where no real-life connection is made. This informal way of finding work seems rife with ghosted interactions and interviews. With interviews not happening because workers are skipping out, managers seem more likely to hire less experienced workers who just show up. Using new technologies to scout and retain seasoned industry professionals is a way to combat this problem. Recruiting technology like TargetWorkforce is hyper-focused on seeking out experienced industry professionals who are more likely to show up to interviews, accept opportunities and stay employed long term. These seasoned workers are beneficial in training future service industry professionals and instilling them with those valuable skills and principles of service.
Haste Makes Waste
The current focus of owners, managers, and seasoned staff is to get the newbies trained up as quickly as possible to relieve the stress of being short-staffed. Unfortunately, in that haste, the industry is building itself back on a faulty foundation. It is not enough to train the inexperienced worker on the steps of the job. Anyone can learn to plate a steak, take an order or set a table. What is harder to teach is that success in restaurant occupations comes with patience, hard work, and a willingness to be of service to others. We need more than ever to teach new industry workers the essence of the job: Service.
The very definition of service is the contribution to the welfare of others. It is an eagerness to “make it about the customer.” Distant memories are the days when a mentor would teach workers about going above and beyond to make sure a guest would have the best experience possible. The goal was not about producing some tangible commodity but the ethereal stuff that wowed customers from when they walked into the restaurant to when they left. The culture of service needs to be redeveloped in our freshman class of service industry workers.
Get Rid of the Training Manual
The keys to building a service-focused employee lie outside the pages of employee handbooks and training manuals. It begins with a hands-on fostering of respect for job roles and continues with education, training, and opportunities for workers to grow. It is crucial for employee retention to allow workers to improve their work processes, and attend in-house food and beverage classes and team-building events that encourage them to advance in their roles. Owners and managers should create service standards and expectations and ensure they are being adhered to. Aligning the workers with the mission of being of service to their guests should be the focus of these expectations. Saged industry professionals are valuable for setting the example and guiding new workers into the service culture’s benefits by acting as mentors.
How do employers find seasoned workers during our current labor shortage?
The way workers apply for jobs in our industry has changed. No longer are potential employees walking into the restaurant between the hours of 2pm and 4pm with a resume in hand looking for an opportunity. In many cases applying online is the only way to garner an interview. Exploring new technologies that focus on recruiting industry veterans over less experienced workers can be a solution. EMERGING’s Target Workforce helps to find seasoned workers with a passion for the industry to help build an experienced and dependable team.
Why is understanding service imperative for those workers new to the restaurant industry?
Service is the heart of the restaurant industry. Without this understanding, the work is hollow. Young people entering the workforce are looking for a sense of purpose. The restaurant industry can provide that purpose to its workers when we refocus our sites on service to others. Offering guests a solid meal paired with a great dining experience is no small matter. As we learned through the pandemic, restaurants matter, service matters and an industry that gives opportunity to workers matters most of all.