A global labor shortage has left restaurants scrambling to hire and train new employees as fast as possible. “Now Hiring” signs are everywhere, from storefront windows and drive-through boards to job-listing sites. In the midst of this massive labor shortage, how are some restaurants staying afloat and even thriving?
We sat down with John Mitchell, the senior operations director of a quick-serve restaurant brand to hear how his company was addressing the challenge.
When you visit this brand’s locations, you’ll find consistency in their approach to service and hospitality. So how is this restaurant managing to stay ahead of the labor shortage while the industry as a whole is struggling?
Here are six ways Mitchell’s team — and the brand at large — has handled the staffing crisis.
Their secret: it’s all in the details.
Mitchell’s restaurant brand works with local owner-operators at each of its many locations. Support comes from a centralized hub. Each owner-operator is deeply involved in the business and can be found in the kitchen and dining room daily, even helping alongside employees when business ramps up. Sure, every restaurant operating model is different. But whether you’re an operator, a franchise owner or a single-site owner, you’ll find there are many benefits to getting involved with your restaurant in a more hands-on way — including fostering a more positive working environment where your employees can see you’re just as engaged as they are.
They know how to stay ahead of the trends.
Even before the pandemic, 70% of their restaurant orders came in via the drive-thru. This allowed restaurants with drive-thru capabilities to pivot quickly when indoor dining rooms closed. Mitchell said leadership at his company was quick to put “Join Our Team” signs outside to keep a steady stream of applicants coming in and maintain a strong workforce.
They also offered referral bonuses as incentives for employees to recommend candidates. This can be crucial to maintaining a solid team of dependable talent, since employees with a vested interest in their workplace usually refer candidates with similar values and work ethics. It’s important to know what helps recruit the right talent for your restaurant and to stay on top of the hiring process. Avoid ending up in a situation where you have to react, like suddenly finding yourself understaffed. Instead of waiting for the need to arise, continue to recruit talent in innovative ways on an ongoing basis — like incentivizing your team to refer potential hires.
Technology makes a big difference.
When asked how technology allowed his team to pivot during the early months of the pandemic, Mitchell said, “It was everything...the most critical thing to get us through the pandemic.”
He explained that his team relied heavily on technology, since dining rooms remained closed for over a year. Restaurants need reliable technology to power online orders.
Any time there’s a labor shortage, technology can fill in the gaps and allow your restaurant to thrive. Handheld devices, like what Mitchell’s quick-serve restaurant uses, can be game-changers by reducing labor costs and increasing time spent with customers.
Invest in your current team.
Mitchell’s team members know they’re valued because of how their peers and management treat them. Their work is rewarded with praise and sometimes surprises in the breakroom.
One key reason why this restaurant brand hasn’t been as negatively impacted by the ongoing labor shortage as so many others is their focus on employee retention over hiring.
Mitchell explained that if he hires five people, but they all leave in a few months, it’s pointless. He would rather have a consistent team that is happy and stays for years, referring friends and helping to solidify the company’s reputation as a great place to work.
Encourage online orders.
Online orders are a major reason why Mitchell’s quick-serve restaurant brand is flourishing across its many locations.
Every online order dramatically reduces labor costs and mistakes. The process also boosts efficiency, allowing restaurants to serve more customers in a shorter period of time.
Michell explained how much online orders help the business. He said they sped up drive-thru operations so much that the brand even started offering a free dessert with every online order to encourage more customers to use this option.
Don’t delay hiring candidates that show potential. If you think a person could be a great new employee, hire them. Hesitating and drawing out the process only increases the chance they’ll find and accept employment with a competitor.
The quick-serve restaurant brand that Mitchell works for has a handful of managers that focus solely on the hiring process, following up with candidates who submitted applications. Setting aside a few employees to exclusively oversee staffing can help streamline the process and boost your recruiting efforts.
Mitchell explained that at his company, the time between application submissions and interviews is extremely short. The whole hiring process often takes place within days. The company even set up a texting service that allows potential candidates to express interest in joining the team via text. A hiring manager then reaches out within hours to set up an online interview. This interview is usually all it takes for the restaurant to determine if the candidate will be a good fit and make plans for onboarding.
In a nutshell, the quick-serve restaurant brand that Mitchell works for has managed to weather an industry-wide labor shortage because it cares about the details, which all add up to success if you mind them. Your restaurant can learn from this one to attract and retain talent, utilize the best technology, and encourage online orders.