It is no secret that the pandemic still impacts the full-service restaurant industry today. The leisure and hospitality sector took harsh blows with lockdowns, masks, and vaccine mandates that kept customers away and changed how the restaurant industry operated.
One of the ways this struggle manifested was in the form of a labor shortage, with employers reporting extreme difficulty finding and retaining workers. This trend continues and shows up in the latest Economic News Release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As restaurants fully reopen, the BLS data shows our industry has roughly stayed the same in job openings, hires, and separations as in 2021. The reasons for the shortage vary, and it is hard to pinpoint one solid factor as to why workers have left. Burnout due to the understaffing crisis may be one reason employee retention is low.
Recovery is Inevitable
Despite the lack of labor, the National Restaurant Association is predicting healthy job growth through the end of this year. The NRA also reports that consumers are ready to resume patronage of their favorite eateries. So even if the workers are not returning en masse, customers are.
Open Table has been keeping track through their far-reaching reservation systems of some exciting data pointing to an industry in recovery. Their data shows increases in reservations and seated diners as more people are again dining out.
However, our customers are returning to poorly staffed establishments with the expectations of the old days when staffing levels could adequately accommodate their every need. Workers commenting on social media industry pages paint a stressful picture of what it is like to be short-handed. They report sweating through shifts packed with excited patrons happy to be back in their beloved establishments. Many workers feel they don’t have the support to provide the same quality of hospitality and graciousness as before. Add to that an increase in to-go traffic that puts pressure on front-of-house and back-of-house resources. The procession of confused delivery app drivers picking up online orders alone is maddening. Things are quite changed.
How To Cut Through The Chaos
Pressure to perform with limited support staff, management, and even products can quickly exhaust the most loyal employees. However, there is a simple remedy to alleviate some of the pressure.
A highly trained host is the most pivotal position in the front of the house in times like these and can be utilized to lead the way to a calm and successful service. Having control of the flow of customers is key to keeping an understaffed restaurant from being overwhelmed. Slowing down the door by quoting short wait times to pace the dining room and bar seating keeps staff from being spread too thin.
Knowing when and where to seat a table goes a long way in ensuring that the servers can spend adequate time with guests to create the rapport needed to cultivate hospitality. A server with time to interact with guests because their section is being seated properly is more likely to upsell, which maximizes restaurant sales. Proper seating also keeps the kitchen working at a healthy pace by reflecting the rate of the service staff ringing in the tickets. An in-control kitchen will make fewer mistakes that affect food costs, as they can focus on consistency instead of feverishly cranking out food for stressed servers trying to accommodate impatient guests.
Controlling to-go orders by limiting when they are allowed takes the pressure off the kitchen during peak hours to focus more on the timely execution of tickets. In addition, allowing the host staff to take more time to interact with customers instead of being tied to the phone for incoming take-out requests helps them manage the door less frantically.
Don’t Let Burnout Happen
Burnout due to staff shortages is a genuine problem in the restaurant industry and leads to employee turnover. It can be very costly to train new workers only for them not to be supported by best practices that keep a restaurant running smoothly. Investing time in next-level host position training is a direct action any manager can take to ensure success.
Finding skilled staff to fill host and other support positions is challenging. Using technology to reach experienced workers active in the workforce as a recruitment tool can bring in qualified candidates. EMERGING provides an alternative to traditional job advertising. TargetWorkforce is an advanced way to target and reach trained restaurant professionals with job opportunities. Using a proprietary technology that is revolutionary for hiring, TargetWorkforce allows restaurant owners to hire smart and find the highest quality, trained staff, at the lowest recruiting cost.
Never Let Them See You Sweat
The host is the first and last point of contact for many customers, but the role has the capacity for much more. This pivotal position can make or break the service, especially in a restaurant struggling with an incomplete staff roster. Help hosts support the rest of the staff more consciously by giving them the training and tools needed to keep the restaurant running smoothly.
Is it a good idea to cross-train workers?
Definitely! Both front- and back-of-house teams are more robust with cross-training. A server who can jump behind the bar or a dishwasher who can work the salad station is an asset. Dependence on these rockstar workers can lead to overworking them, creating a more stressful environment. Learn how to lean into the expanded skills of employees to avoid pushing them out the door.
Who Calls the Shots?
Even with a skilled host at the helm, the manager should be in control of the flow of business. Helping guide the host in their decisions on seating, managing walk-ins, reservations, to-go hours, and the phasing of floor staff ensures efficient and successful service. Even when a host is knowledgeable, managers have a better view of all operations and should be referred to before making any decisions regarding guest complaints or staff concerns.