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the great resignation: overcoming labor challenges

bill bellissimo, founder and ceo of crunchtime, describes how operators can help stem the tide of turnover by making investments in smart software, agile tools and employee development.

the great resignation: overcoming labor challengesistock

the so-called great resignation has hit the limited-service sector of the restaurant industry particularly hard. nearly 71% of quick-serve operators polled in a 2021 survey said they had either closed (or were considering closing stores) due to staffing shortages. and according to a 2021 national restaurant association trend survey, 74% of fast casual operators reported that they simply didn't have enough employees to support customer demand.

as the labor shortage continues into 2022, major national chains have been forced to get creative and make major financial investments in employee development. shake shack announced midyear of 2021 that it would spend millions on compensation increases and launch leadership development initiatives. chipotle has similarly focused resources on salary increases and worker development.

tgi friday's is now offering paid vacations and healthcare insurance premium bonuses to their general managers. papa john's began giving employees recruiting and appreciation payouts. all these strategies are now an important part of the talent equation. but the challenge isn't simply getting people in place. once hired, operators need to engender goodwill by continuously investing in their team members to ensure they aren't lured by other opportunities.

keeping teams engaged and thriving

a well-trained and enthusiastic front- or back-of-house employee is irreplaceable. but restaurant workers are now pulled in too many directions and asked to do more with less. the landscape has shifted during the pandemic — with new offerings like delivery, curbside pickup and mobile ordering creating greater challenges. it's a lot to juggle. while higher wages, bonuses and free vacations are deserved incentives, it's important for operators to also make work lives easier.

automation and tools

nearly every restaurant is now operating with fewer employees. some major chains have even restricted service to the drive-thru because they can't fully staff their stores. and it's not just about serving customers; there are numerous non-service-related tasks that must be completed on any given shift.

one way to help keep employees doing what they do best — interacting with their guests — is through a nimble back-of-house software platform that automates mundane tasks like inventory, vendor ordering and receiving, sales forecasting, labor scheduling, and daily prep. it helps managers, cooks, and servers do their jobs more effectively while fostering employee morale — because workers feel empowered and supported. brands should look for a platform that not only automates numerous restaurant functions but also seamlessly delivers information across the business so that insightful decisions around things like ordering, staffing and operating hours can be made based on real-time data. in unison, these tools can serve to de-stress your staff!

look for tools that can be accessed via multiple devices, anytime and anywhere, so that staff stay nimble, engaged, and efficient. allowing your team to engage with your restaurant tech infrastructure on mobile tools gets them out of the back office and allows them to use your technology the way they are most accustomed: on their smartphone.

training and retention

black box intelligence reports that hourly turnover in limited-service restaurants, which hit 151% in mid-2021, continues to reach historically high levels each quarter. on top of that, 23% of newly hired restaurant employees never make it to their fourth month on the job. those first 90 days are critical to establishing a pattern of success for the new employee, which is nearly impossible to do with inadequate training. additionally, a well-designed training program can be an effective way to improve retention and engagement during those crucial first few months.

e-learning can be used as part of a blended training approach to teaching the basics of skill in a consistent and repeatable way before an employee is handed over to an on-the-job trainer. when team members start working with the trainer, they have more confidence in their abilities and are able to learn more effectively. not only can they dive into the details sooner, but they are also able to ask better questions and remember information longer. this sets them up to both achieve competency faster and retain knowledge better.

in fact, e-learning has been shown to reduce training time for both front-of-house and back-of-house employees by up to 50%. by cutting training time in half, the employee becomes competent faster and achieves success in their role sooner, which provides positive reinforcement on their job decision. an employee who is productive sooner also feels like a valued and contributing part of the team rather than a burden to their co-workers.

this approach creates more satisfied employees right out of the gate and also contributes to a team dynamic where learning and development is valued. in organizations with a personal growth-oriented culture, team members are more positive about their advancement potential and are more willing to look internally for opportunities.

the bottom line: by making investments in smart software, agile tools, and employee development, operators can help stem the tide of turnover — and positively impact both the employee and guest experience.

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