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Restaurant Owners Explain Ways to Adapt to Being Short-Staffed

November 15, 2021

At the end of 2020, the restaurant industry saw an astounding 2.5 million job losses. As restaurants started to bounce back in 2021, owners could not bring their workforce numbers back to pre-pandemic levels. While the foodservice industry isn’t new to high turnover rates or labor shortages, restaurateurs struggle to retain and recruit new staff. Competing with unemployment payments and fears of possible illness have encouraged restaurant owners to develop ingenious ways to navigate their short-staffed dining rooms.

Surviving the Current Restaurant Labor Shortage

Interested in learning how chefs and owners across the United States are battling the labor shortage daily and successfully? Here are three main ways industry folks are bouncing back.

Adopt new technology, cross-train staff, and introduce incentives.

1. Adopting New Technologies

Tech-savvy kitchens have been a growing culinary trend in recent years. Pre-pandemic, diners appreciated the ease that contactless ordering offered. Restaurants also utilized high-tech concepts as marketing strategies designed to draw in new customers. However, technologies during the pandemic have allowed restaurants to provide quality service while navigating the current restaurant labor shortage. A recent article from Wall Street Journal illuminates the ways some casual-dining brands have brought in contactless tech to maintain positive customer experiences without adding extra staff:

  • With over 660 locations, Cracker Barrel has mitigated being short-staffed by employing ordering apps that guests can use to place their orders without the need for waitstaff.
  • Applebee’s procured hand-held tablets for servers in about 500 of its 1,700+ establishments. Now, waitstaff can immediately send orders directly to the kitchen from the tables, so orders are placed and organized faster. 

 In general, technology can help reduce reliance on manual labor, which is paramount during a labor shortage. Interestingly, studies also suggest that customers are more likely to spend more and tables turn over faster with contactless technologies.

2. Cross-Training Staff

Restaurants are leveraging their staff by training them in all aspects of service, including: hosting, bussing, bartending, and prep. There are multiple benefits to utilizing the cross-train model. First, if someone calls out sick or an unexpired rush happens, team members can jump in to help. A prep cook can help clear a dirty table, a server can help bar-back, and a manager can assist in taking orders. Second, cross-training creates a more profound sense of teamwork and camaraderie and promotes overall efficiency.

 Cross-training doesn’t just have to take place on the floor. Billy Dec, founder and CEO of Sunda New Asian Restaurants, educates his management team on social media and marketing to further promote his business.

3. Introducing Incentives

In an effort to attract a robust staff pool and retain current workers, restaurant owners are offering incentives. Popular chains like McDonald’s, Darden Restaurants, and Chipotle Mexican Grill have increased pay for new and existing employees. NORMS Restaurants encourages employees to help recruit staff through their referral program. However, some smaller independent restaurants don’t always have extra revenue to devote to exponentially increased payroll. Some places bestow acts of appreciation by helping with college tuition, and restaurants like NYC’s Dirt Candy cook family meals for staff.  

The primary takeaway from these examples is that rewarding employees and showing support for their work will go a long way to retain your workforce.

Get Help From Your Local Restaurant Supply Store

US Foods CHEF’STORE is known for our high-quality produce, exceptional meats, beverage supplies, and everyday essentials. However, we also provide helpful business resources like staff training, labor cost management tools, and more! Next time you are shopping at CHEF’STORE, ask how we can help! Stop by one of our locations today.

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