Six Key Takeaways for Restaurants from My “Beat the Labor Shortage” Workshop

If you missed the workshop I conducted last week, “Beat the Labor Shortage – How to Attract and Retain Talent Without Breaking the Bank,” I’m sharing six key takeaways discovered by the diverse group of owners, operators, educators, and corporate team members who collaborated with me there.  

  1. You’ve Got This: Every crisis seems insurmountable (think COVID-19). Each time we encounter one, though, we learn and become better – both individually and as an industry.
  2. Do What You Have to Do: Effective recruiting tactics range from the lowest tech (like a weather-proof application box stationed outside a restaurant) to high tech (such as a system that offers employees an option to be paid daily). The operator with the weather-proof box said it outperformed Indeed by 500%!
  3. Never Have I Ever…expected a value proposition for prospective employees would become mandatory. As we switch from a labor market where employers select workers to one where workers select employers, you must be able to articulate why applicants ought to choose your restaurant. 
  4. Education Is an Important Key: We lowered standards for our workforce out of necessity. Balance that by boosting training and education. That seems simple, logical, and obvious…and can easily be overlooked when dealing with all the challenges of 2021. 
  5. Charge the Guest: The only people who pay for anything in restaurants? Guests. Know the relationship between labor cost increases and menu price increases. We worked with a spreadsheet for that (if you would like a copy, hit Reply to this email and I will share it with you).
  6. Loneliness Is Such a Sad Affair: There is a ton more strategy and tactics we developed in the workshop. We are all in this together. We have each other in our restaurant community, and we figure this out together. Seeing all the faces in the workshop and witnessing the spirit of collaboration left me with powerfully positive feelings of excitement about what we can achieve when we collaborate. This is no time to go it alone.

One of my sayings is “owning a restaurant company ought to be a joy – let’s make it that way”.  Dealing with the labor shortage may not bring you much joy right now.  But being part of a team making progress can get you there.  

People who come out on top of all this are those who amp up how they enroll and attract workforce, create a culture people want to be part of, educate team members who yearn for advancement, maintain their margins by increasing menu prices, and continue a constant dialogue with their peers (and, yes, even with their competitors). 

Operators who activate these six takeaways will truly beat the labor shortage. Others may find that the labor shortage beats them.

Over to you. How will you activate these six key takeaways to make sure your group wins?