As an employer in the U.S., you’re facing the most substantial labor shortfall in about 50 years. Almost all industries are feeling the pinch, and for restaurant managers, it’s making an already tough employment market even more challenging. This labor crisis is real, and your best strategy to get through it is three-fold: find, hire, and retain a staff with staying power.

Find Better Candidates

Great employees aren’t just going to walk through your door ready to work. Here are a few ideas to help you think outside the “help wanted” box:

  • Contact potential “boomerang” employees who left you on good terms and may be looking to come back.
  • Re-vamp your employee referral program to offer more interesting incentives to people who refer quality applicants.
  • Offer outreach in the communities where your employees work. You’ll likely find yourself connecting with people who need your help as much as you need theirs.
  • A well-trained staff makes recruiting easier. People will want to refer to and work for companies that show they’re willing to take care of their people.

Hire Better People

When a labor shortfall affects your restaurant, you may feel tempted to hire anyone who is willing to show up for a shift. That short-sided thinking will just cause more problems down the road. Hiring the right people is never more important than it is right now. Follow these tips for better hiring:

  • Take the time to prepare for every interview. Write down some “red flag” questions that will tell you right away if an employee is not a good fit for your restaurant.
  • Deliver exceptional service during the interview. If the applicant works out, you’ve already shown them what you expect of them.
  • Avoid yes or no questions and instead do a little role-playing like you would in a training session. How an applicant responds to real-world scenarios will tell you a lot about how they can handle working in your restaurant.
  • Focus on attitude over aptitude. Hire applicants for their potential and willingness to learn, not their existing skill-set.
  • Tell the truth. Hiring someone who doesn’t understand the true conditions of the job will mean you’ll be doing this all over again soon. Be honest.

Train to Reduce Turnover

Training helps people get on board faster and encourages them to stick around longer. Follow this training methodology to get through the current labor shortfall:

  • New hire training: Training is on an ongoing process that starts on day one.
  • Blended training: Add on-the-job practice to your online training program to give employees supervised opportunities to hone their skills.
  • Career progression paths: Use your learning management system to allow employees to pursue career advancement goals.
  • Ongoing refresh and review: Protect your business, employees, and customers with refresher courses on compliance and safety
  • Train by example. Your leadership is the most powerful training tool you have.

The labor shortfall in the restaurant industry isn’t going to let up anytime soon. Unemployment is low, businesses are growing, more students are going on to college, and another baby boomer retires every nine seconds. You can’t wait it out – take action with the strategies above to keep ahead of it.

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