As the restaurant industry struggles with the lingering effects of the pandemic and its ripples, finding, hiring, and retaining kitchen staff remains one of the biggest challenges for restaurants looking to find a sustainable path forward.
Industrywide, there were 1.7 million job openings at the end of July 2021, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report. 75% of operators said they were more than 10% below necessary staffing levels, and 31% were more than 20% below where they should be.
Promoting Kitchen Staff Openings
Get creative when advertising positions. Social media is a vibrant, valuable hub for food culture and potential employees, but don’t expect results without active social media accounts. You may also consider industry-specific job boards over general ones and college and diversity boards for a more targeted approach.
Incentives are another option but must be carefully planned before implementation. For existing employees who refer outside candidates, ensure that the payments are large enough to incentivize them to scour their networks. Require that new candidates stay for some predetermined period before paying out. For referrals or bonuses for new employees, split the incentive into a smaller upfront payment with the rest paid after three or six months.
Interviewing potential kitchen staff
Given the staffing strain many kitchens face, managers may be tempted to hire any willing candidate who walks through the door. Don’t. This can negatively impact kitchen operations or guests’ experiences and could seriously harm the bottom line with high turnover costs or disarray among staff.
Retaining kitchen staff
Once you’ve spent the time and resources to find, interview, and finally hire a candidate, there should be a system dedicated to retention. Given the restaurant industry’s high turnover rate and the current climate, with nearly two million candidates pursuing a drastically recruiting pool, it’s more important than ever to keep positions filled with the right fit.
If that’s not enough, consider the cost of turnover per employee, according to the Cornell Hospitality Report from Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research: $5,864, on average. That number could be as low as $2,604 but could climb as high as $14,019. Multiply that a few times and combine it with the potential business lost due to too many open positions, and the need for a fully formed retention strategy becomes even more apparent.
While restaurant staffing is more challenging than ever, the good news is that the industry is also on pace to see more demand than ever by the end of 2022. With the right systems and strategies in place, those restaurants that survived the pandemic and waded through the supply chain crunch will be able to build cohesive BOH teams that deliver high-quality service and help operators meet their financial goals as they capture a piece of that nearly $1 trillion pie.
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