Good help is hard to find and in today’s restaurant labor market, even harder to keep. But that’s not really news to anyone. Obtaining and retaining talent in the QSR industry has always been a challenge. And even more so, in the age of the pandemic. Now as the world begins to normalize, the industry has to contend with surging inflation, soaring food and commodities costs, and continued supply chain volatility on top of the ongoing restaurant worker shortage.
For QSR restaurants, quality food and service are at the core of their success. But both factors require skilled employees. When staff feels cared for and happy, retention improves. Since it stands to reason that happy employees beget satisfied, loyal customers who generate repeat revenue, nurturing your staff is a solid strategy for success. On the other hand, a high turnover rate can lead to real challenges including a hectic schedule for restaurateurs, staff burnout, and a poor experience for diners.
So how do you manage in a tight talent market with a labor shortage and record volume of employee churn? While attracting and connecting with top talent can be difficult for QSR restaurants, there are tools and solutions that hiring teams can leverage to overcome staffing shortages. Let’s take a look.
What Caused the QSR Industry Worker Shortage?
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 accelerated many of the underlying issues in the industry, but not all of the fault can be placed on the pandemic. The QSR labor shortage is tied to a myriad of reasons both old and new:
Historically speaking, QSR restaurants have a reputation for offering low wages. With inflation prices soaring there is a large pool of people who simply discovered they could find work elsewhere that was less demanding with higher wages.
Lack of Benefits
This is another long-standing issue. Since many QSR positions are part-time, there has always been a lack of benefits given in the industry across the board.
Poor Recruitment Practices
The pandemic isn’t the only factor causing QSR labor shortages. Poor recruitment practices are another underlying historic issue. Oftentimes restaurants are forced to hire inexperienced workers because they fail to advertise vacancies on the appropriate platforms.
Reduced Gen Z Interest
In the past, QSR restaurants have been largely staffed by the younger generations but a previous study by The National Restaurant Association shares that teen involvement in the restaurant labor force has reached an all-time low.
In fact, another study by The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of teens in the labor force will drop by an estimated 660,000 over the next 10 years. The study goes on to cite that the number of teens choosing to pursue internships and community service gigs that look good on college applications is increasing dramatically indicating that more and more Gen Z’ers are opting to forego shift work in their teens.
Smaller Overall Talent Pool
This is one of the only issues that can be directly linked to COVID-19 complications. Early in the pandemic, many restaurants were forced to shutter their doors or operate with dramatically reduced staff. This led to droves of workers leaving the industry in search of other careers.
According to another study, 15% of hourly workers said they have changed industries in the past year, while 33% said they would like to and 30% of former restaurant employees say they found more traditional career-oriented jobs.
As you can see, the reason for the restaurant industry worker shortage is as diverse as the workers themselves. Therefore, simply blaming the shortage on the pandemic is not an accurate or valid representation of what’s truly happening.
How Short Staffing Can Impact Your Restaurants
Though the effects of a labor shortage will vary greatly depending on your market and restaurant type, here are some ways the current QSR industry labor shortage could affect your operations:
Reduced Hours of Operation or Closures
Few things are more discouraging for a restaurant owner than having to reduce hours or close the doors altogether because they don’t have enough staff to stay open and operational. But it’s a reality that has become more and more frequent.
Longer Wait Times
When restaurants that are short-staffed do manage to keep their doors open, it can result in longer wait times and reduced service quality for guests. By proxy, this can lead to your guests’ dining experience suffering, costing you the promise of their repeat patronage.
Decreased Profit Margins
Combining the previous two points, with fewer staff members and a slower service pace, you’ll likely experience a decrease in the number of checks you do in a night. This equals less revenue flowing into your establishment resulting in a shrinking operational budget that will tighten finances in an already difficult time and substantially affect your purchasing power and decisions.
When an establishment is understaffed the remaining workers tend to experience a lower level of morale, and a higher level of burnout leading to high levels of turnover. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that as difficult as it is for restaurant owners and operators to find staff right now, the staff they do have is turning over faster than ever before. One CNBC report puts the turnover rate in the QSR and casual dining sector at 130% per year.
How to Conquer the QSR Industry Worker Shortage and Help Your Restaurant Survive (and Thrive)
All this may sound bleak, but the good news is that labor shortages aren’t impossible to navigate. All that is required is some creative thinking, flexibility, and the ability to shift with the times.
Make Retention a Top Priority
First and foremost, you need to retain the staff you have. Keeping existing staff will always be less expensive than finding, hiring, and training new staff and amid a labor shortage, your existing staff is one of your most valuable assets. Before you start recruiting new staff, make sure you have a strategy in place to retain not only your new hires but your existing staff as well.
Create Job Listing That are Appetizing for all Generations
As we said before, QSR and casual dining have historically been staffed by younger generations but the trend is changing. To attract and recruit a diverse workforce your company will need a multifaceted approach that appeals to generations across the board. When setting up your digital strategy, in addition to platforms like LinkedIn and other social media, consider mobile and SMS recruiting. Using various media tactics and communication channels goes a long way toward maximizing your recruiting potential across different generations.
Order Up Automation
Speed and efficiency are critical components in talent acquisition. When it comes to winning out over competitors in the food service industry it often comes down to speed. Fortunately, new advancements in automation are changing the face of recruiting. With Work4 automation, job postings can be distributed to multiple sites with targeted talent audiences. Other tasks like candidate nurturing, text recruiting, employer branding, and employee advocacy programs can also be automated.
The Secret Sauce
One often overlooked ace that every restaurant has is the recruiting power of its existing staff. When you partner with Work4 and our Employee Advocacy program, we give you all the tools you need to turn every staff member into a recruiter. Employee referrals are 55% faster to hire, which also reduces the cost per hire. Employee voice is trusted 3 times more than corporate messaging and employee advocacy improves your employer branding efforts exponentially.
Outside-the-box Talent Acquisition
When it comes to attracting modern talent, it’s time to check many of the old recruiting tactics at the door. Candidate recruitment has changed, it now closely resembles customer attraction. That means all of the same principles are needed. In a candidate-driven market, you must attract top talent by creating awareness, nurturing interest, and then converting them into new hires. For that to happen, Recruitment Marketing must be part of your restaurant’s recruiting strategy.
Stay Competitive in Today’s Job Market
Finding new and better ways to attract candidates within the restaurant industry is crucial during periods of growth and during labor shortages.
By embracing integrated technologies you can streamline the recruiting processes, allowing your hiring teams to focus more on what they do best – creating the human connection that converts applicants into employees.
But, you don’t have to do it alone, we’re here to help. The industry talent pool is smaller and more competitive than ever before but with a partner like Work4, you can stay competitive in the market and not only survive the current QSR labor market but thrive within it. Click the link below to talk to one of our experts today and see the difference Work4 can make in your recruiting strategy.