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The Customer Experience and the Restaurant Labor Shortage

A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Dynata and commissioned by HungerRush, revealed that a majority believe the restaurant customer experience is declining due to the ongoing labor shortage. According to these diners, the result is order inaccuracies, increased wait times, and stressed-out employees. 

“What happened to never let them see you sweat?” 

Of course, that motto is easier said than done when you have too many tables and too little help. 

Some of the highlights (or lowlights) of this survey include: 

  • 51% of consumers feel independent restaurants have experienced the greatest impact of diminished staff. And the shortage is felt in all areas of the restaurant, including chefs, servers, and food delivery personnel.
  • 33% have experienced longer wait times for their food, while 32% report a diminished customer experience due to stressed-out staff. Another 17% believe they’ve waited longer to place their order.
  • 39% of consumers are likely to write a negative review after visiting a restaurant where they suffered from long wait times, staffing issues, and order inaccuracies. 

The Current Restaurant Environment

According to the report, “There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from for consumers, which makes it essential that restaurants are creating personalized, streamlined, and connected experiences at every touch point.” 

So, how do you do that in our current environment? 

As is apparent by this report, it all comes down to your restaurant environment. A positive customer experience depends on the positive, well-trained staff. While the slogan, “Never let them see you sweat,” came from an ad campaign for an antiperspirant by the Gillette Company, many companies have turned it into their own motto. It translates to remain calm even when you’re under pressure. While everyone feels pressure, not everyone shows it.

In an ideal world, servers and chefs wouldn’t have to plaster on a smile and grit their teeth to make it through a service. There would be enough staff to help them create a seamless guest experience. But, according to Fit Small Business, most restaurants are currently understaffed by two to four employees. Additionally, 47% of customers prefer to spend money on an employee-centric restaurant.

Essentially, they don’t want to feel sorry for your staff while waiting for their food. They don’t want to think of them as overworked and unable to do their job correctly. So, how do you make that happen when you’re short of help

Understaff Restaurant Solutions

Solutions may be an overstatement. After all, as we all know, there’s only so much you can do when you need additional well-trained staff that excel at their jobs. We also know that staff shortages can prompt a downward spiral that’s hard to pull out of. Not only does it affect the customer experience, but your restaurant’s employee retention rate, as well.

Have you tried all avenues to increase your staff? Target Workforce was designed to help restaurants find the highest quality, trained staff at the lowest recruiting costs. Sounds dreamlike, doesn’t it? Thanks to proprietary technology and advanced geo-location, it’s possible. Target Workforce accomplishes this overwhelming task by identifying potential hires via mobile tracking and IP address verification technology, and then contacting them via targeted ads, connecting with the right person at the right time. 

In addition to using the latest technology to find needed employees, operators also look closely at scheduling and historical trends. Do you remember what happened last year during the “Fall Festival” event? Yes, you were slammed. Have you adjusted the schedule accordingly? 

Restaurants are also adjusting menus, increasing takeout and delivery options, changing hours, and even shutting down sections to overcome the struggles caused by insufficient staff. Life gets busy, restaurants busier, and it takes a team to ensure all the puzzle pieces fit. 

A Restaurant as a Family Unit

As the late Anthony Bourdin so succinctly said, “You can always tell when a person has worked in a restaurant. There’s an empathy that can only be cultivated by those who’ve stood between a hungry mouth and a $28 pork chop, a special understanding of the way a bunch of motley misfits can be a family. Service industry work develops the “soft skills” recruiters talk about on LinkedIn — discipline, promptness, the ability to absorb criticism, and most important, how to read people like a book. The work is thankless and fun and messy, and the world would be a kinder place if more people tried it. With all due respect to my former professors, I’ve long believed I gained more knowledge in kitchens, bars, and dining rooms than any college could even hold.”

You can always tell a restaurant where servers and other staff feel like family. They support each other when the going gets tough. Managers reach out when they spot harried staff, not just to ensure a great customer experience, but to help employees rise to the occasion. Without fail, you can immediately tell, when you walk into a restaurant for the first time, which part of the employee pool they fall into—constructive and encouraging or not.

Are you ready to hire additional highly trained employees to ensure the optimum experience for staff and customers? To learn more about Target Workforce or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING today.

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