One thing that the pandemic has taught us as restaurateurs is that our employees are no longer willing to accept the old status quo of the restaurant business. Work-life balance now moves front and center with a desperate need to earn a living wage. With the skyrocketing costs of food and goods needed to run hospitality establishments, all this change seems to be coming at us just as we open up to full capacity. So how do we keep our current employees happy?
Take a vested interest in our current employees.
Our employees are the life blood of our establishments, and without them, we would just have a shell of a restaurant. We must make the effort to get to know what they do outside the restaurant, find out what is important to them and what makes them tick. The lines of communication must remain open, even when our establishments close. Set up an employee comment box for day off requests as well as suggestions of what tools the employees may need to better do their jobs. We must ensure that their day off requests are met whenever possible. If our employees are happy outside of the restaurant, they will be happy inside the restaurant; the results of this will show in the food and the service. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we haven't taken good enough care of ourselves and put too much emphasis on things that do not matter. Work-life balance is essential and needs to be addressed. Health is more important than ever, and PTO and paid sick days are two things that will keep sick employees at home and keep healthy staff healthy. If your operation is big enough, health insurance is another way to ensure that work-life balance is maintained. If your operation is small, see if you can partner with other hospitality establishments in your area so that the co-pay and costs are low.
Daily pre-shift meetings, where you discuss the upcoming service and specials of the day also ensure that there is time for employee participation to let their voices be heard. All meetings, whether one on one or groups, should always end on a high note. Saving good news that effects everyone till the very end will help boost morale going into a busy service.
Take every employee complaint seriously
One of the things that has plagued our industry for as long as I can remember is that restaurants have a reputation of having hostile work environments. To move forward as an industry, this must change. Every employee complaint must be investigated fully and action immediately taken. Harassment, by definition, is anything that makes another person feel uncomfortable, and should never be tolerated. Upon hiring a new employee and when implementing this make sure every employee is trained properly on what harassment is and that they clearly know the consequences. Conduct a training for all your employees one a year and have them sign a yearly contract with the understanding that they have received and understand this training.
A Zero Tolerance Harassment policy cannot be more crystal clear.
Compensate your employees
No one will work for free, but with rising salaries, paying people what they are worth becomes more challenging. Lucky for us, there are many different ways to compensate our employees. Depending on the type of restaurant you are operating, it may be an option to pool the tips to split among all employees.
Also, employee incentives for a job well done goes a long way. What waiter had the highest check average for the week? Give them a gift card to Target. Did your chef keep costs in line and lower your food cost? Get them on a bonus plan for controlling costs. These are not that difficult to set up and gives your Chef incentive to watch your bottom line.
When our dishwashers don't break or lose anything for a month, we have the ability to build in an incentive when this happens. Take the money you would have spent on replacing broken dishware and give them a percentage.
Things that every restaurant should do
Always promote from within; this gives the people who are serious about making this a career something to work towards. Our employees want to be recognized for their dedication, reciprocate by promoting them, this will also build employee loyalty. For an industry that is famous for the lack of loyalty this will go a long way.
Feed your employees. Feed your employees. Feed your employees. Cooks and waitstaff may eat off your guests' plates if they are hungry during service or worse yet eat something when they think no one is looking. Feeding our employees every shift makes food theft non existent. To control costs on this make sure the meal is pre-planned and they never order off the menu unless in extreme circumstances.
Employees must have all the tools they need to be successful. Not having an ingredient, or a piece of equipment that is not working properly makes tasks more difficult and processes less efficient. Listen to your employees when they need something and empower them when they have an idea that will make your operation more efficient. An empowered employees is one that takes pride in their job. An empowered employee adds value to all levels of the business.
There is no one clear answer to employee retention. We have a golden opportunity to make this industry better and it must start by taking care of the people that take care of you and your operation daily.
Until next week,