The ongoing labor shortage in the restaurant industry has been hard to miss in recent months. In extreme cases, customers have found themselves at establishments so short staffed that it was difficult to find anyone to take an order.
As a Miami-based chef with managerial experience in restaurants, Michael Gauss is no stranger to the complexities of the crisis that his industry is facing. He recognizes that these shifts necessitate that establishments pivot to outlast the shortage and see success on the other side.
Outlasting the labor shortage is no easy task for many impacted U.S restaurants, however. Doing so requires both an inside look into reasons for the ongoing problem and crucial insights for how to address them.
What Are Potential Reasons for the Continued Labor Shortage?
Amidst the recent labor shortages impacting restaurants, experts have reasoned that there are many factors at play. The pandemic shook up a lot of processes for the restaurant industry- forcing management to find creative ways to keep the doors open and others to close.
When asked his opinion on the recent shortage from the inside, Chef Michael Gauss explained that many proposed reasons are linked to employee satisfaction and job stability. Of the factors, a few stood out as the most glaring.
Issues With Pay and Benefits
It is possible to make a living in the restaurant industry, but many restaurant jobs pay less than $15 an hour. Through the pandemic, reduced hours and cancelled shifts further emphasized the issues that some staff have had with pay.
It is hard for many restaurants to avoid the hard truth that employee demands and expectations are beginning to change in many areas of the country. Workers have expressed a desire for benefits and flexibility that they may not find in food service- and Michael Gauss reasons that this has had a profound impact on staffing.
Questions Surrounding Job Security
When restaurant shutdowns began in 2020 due to the pandemic, millions of restaurant workers across the country lost their jobs as businesses closed. According to estimates, one in 10 restaurants permanently closed during the pandemic.
Naturally, some have returned to the industry in the time since the early stages of the pandemic- but others have found employment in other sectors. The pandemic has shown some workers that, in times of crisis, it is possible that restaurants are not always the most stable sources of employment.
Times have changed for many establishments, and some of which have done an excellent job pivoting to turn profits. Those that have not been as successful- or lucky- have former restaurant employees further questioning the stability of employment opportunities moving forward.
Problems with Job Satisfaction
Perhaps one of the most glaring potential reasons for the continued restaurant labor shortage, according to Michael Gauss, is job satisfaction throughout the industry.
“I love working as a chef but, depending on where you work, employment at a restaurant can be very stressful.” Gauss added.
The mental health crisis hidden within the restaurant industry has been documented for years. In 2017. Mental Health America (MHA) released a study finding a correlation between food and beverage industry employment and mental health issues. The most cited stressors being wages, substance abuse, hours, job security, lack of trust among coworkers.
Stress in the restaurant industry can be difficult to manage. Employers that are dealing with staffing need to be willing to entertain the possibility that some staffing issues are linked to the environment.
What Can Restaurants Do to Adapt to Shortages?
Pulling from experience as both a chef and restaurant manager, Michael Gauss has been a resource for several business owners throughout the health crisis. He notes that, in many ways, the industry was already facing pressure to change to fit the evolving needs of its workers.
Outlasting the labor shortage presents a challenge for restaurants still doing business through the pandemic, but it is far from insurmountable. Chef Gauss speaks to several techniques that businesses across the country are already utilizing to remain efficient and retain high-quality talent.
Examine Recruitment Methods
The current staffing issues have caused restaurants across the industry to reevaluate their recruitment methods. After all, the first step to retaining quality employees is to attract industry talent.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish revamping recruitment methods is to use online resources to help. Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn all stand out as platforms that can reach many potential employees quickly.
Restaurants have also seen success streamlining their online application platforms as well. You want applications to be simple to fill out or you risk scaring off potential employees early on, and your process for selecting the top resumes should be carefully considered throughout the process.
Take an Interest in Employees
For restaurants to remain competitive while looking to attract new talent, it is hard to ignore the need for employers to uplift their staff.
Some restaurants have addressed shortages by offering incentives such as competitive pay, benefits, or signing bonuses- but these options are far from the only methods being used.
Another important factor- according to Gauss- is showing employees that your restaurant is a place that they can hone their skills and build a viable career path. If you want to keep great talent, they need to be able to imagine themselves fitting seamlessly within the ranks of your establishment.
A few underused methods of taking interest in employees include mentorship opportunities, certifications, and trainings. These empower restaurant workers to grow alongside the restaurant, and is a fast track to loyal, secure, and capable assistance.
Consider Reducing Hours, Dining Capacity, or Menu Offerings
If your business is currently facing staffing issues, it can make it difficult to operate at full capacity without placing a lot of stress on all involved.
Through the labor shortage, some restaurants have begun to implement limits on either their hours, capacity, or menu to optimize processes for their existing staff.
Limiting the menu, for example, is a commonly used tactic because it can help chefs focus more on the offerings that sell. Regardless of what changes that you make to maintain the health of the business, there may be some obstacles along the way. For this reason, restaurant owners need to balance these implementations for maximum efficiency.