Most people assume the restaurant staffing issue – where restaurants and other businesses in the food & hospitality industry are perpetually understaffed, that is – is strictly an issue of wages, and that does factor in, but that isn’t the only underlying issue.
It is true that a lot of restaurants can’t attract and retain quality employees because they can’t compete with many other industries on salary. Rising costs and tighter margins have made it difficult for restaurants to raise wages. This staffing problem manifests itself in a number of ways, from longer wait times to lower quality food, which, in turn, makes customers want to try a different food solution. However, there are other issues to contend with, too.
There are not enough people interested in working in the restaurant industry.
The restaurant industry is one of the lowest-paying industries in the country, and it is also one of the most demanding. There is ample job security in most food places (people always need to eat!), but it’s hard work, and it comes with condescending customers, manual labor, and long hours. To be fair, it also comes with a high degree of job satisfaction, but that isn’t as easy to see for someone new to the industry.
Restaurant workers are underpaid, and tip distribution can be confusing.
The median hourly wage for a restaurant worker is just $9.61, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s nearly $4 below the national median wage of $13.53. But that’s not the worst part; tip distribution is a very gray area for a lot of food industry businesses, making it frustrating for many to feel confident in their income. People in back-of-house may not even receive tips, and thus their base wages are likely to be higher to compensate for that, which can increase tensions with front-of-house employees. Sometimes tips are distributed to everyone equally, sometimes you keep all your own tips, and sometimes, in the worst situations, managers don’t fairly distribute them at all. Running into this aggravating situation makes people want to leave the industry or avoid it in the first place.
Scheduling can be frustrating.
Depending on what meals are offered, scheduling could be regular and full time, but for many restaurants, schedules are rotated so people aren’t working the same shifts every week. A job with regular hours can be appealing to someone who wants to know what their work schedule is going to look like next month and has to wait until it’s posted to find out.
Conditions in the restaurant industry lead to high turnover rate, which makes it difficult to retain staff.
The restaurant industry is one of the most challenging places to work. The hours are long, the work is demanding, and there is little room for error. It’s not for everyone, although a large percentage of the population has some experience in the food industry at one point or another in their lives.
So what now?
The solution to the staffing problem is not to raise wages across the board, but to create a more efficient system that makes better use of the resources restaurants have available. Each business will be different, of course, but there are ways of addressing the staffing problem that can help in any situation. Do your employees want more stable scheduling? More transparent tip distribution? More benefits? Shorter shifts? It’s important to know what your employees want and need so you can compromise in a way that will satisfy them, and retain valuable staff members. In addition, restaurants are turning to technology to help with the staffing problem. Automated systems can take orders, prepare food, and even clean up after customers when people aren’t available. Phone automation systems like Reachify help control phone volume so your staff can stay focussed on the tasks most important to them!