The ongoing labor crisis is so severe it has earned a lofty title—“the Great Resignation.” And this “I-Quit” era has been thoroughly inhospitable to the hospitality industry.

In September, leisure and hospitality’s 6.4 percent quit rate was more than double the national average.

The tables have turned on restaurants: At the beginning of the pandemic, many team members were laid off or furloughed when dining rooms closed—even temporarily. Two years later, many employees still feel the sting of being let go and have moved on to secure work in other industries or jumped ship for higher pay and/or better incentives.

However, this isn’t really a resignation, it’s more of a Great Reshuffle as many workers hop from position to position seeking greater job flexibility and more lucrative benefits.

As such, restaurant managers and owners must be creative as they go about hiring and retraining staff, particularly since it costs about $4,100 per new employee when factoring in recruiting, training and more. Below are some ideas that can be integrated into current hiring and training programs.

Improve pay and working environment

Better pay, sign-on bonuses, improved working conditions and flexible hours are some ways restaurants are hiring and keeping employees. Others are investing in self-ordering technology like kiosks that take orders and payments without the need for a cashier.

Communicate a career path

Sure, a candidate is coming on board to work an entry-level cashier, busser or server job. But how about demonstrating a career path for moving up the ladder—to one day becoming an assistant manager or even manager?

Perhaps he/she doesn’t plan on having a career in the restaurant business. That’s fine, if you remind new workers they’ll acquire skills such as how to sell better, how to enhance customer experiences and how working for you will help them improve themselves personally and professionally. By focusing on employee development, engagement improves, which helps increase both performance and revenue for your restaurant.

Offer financial planning and tools

In July 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 5.2 million employed 16-24-year-olds—the largest share of younger workers—were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry, including food services. But you already know how heavily your restaurant relies on younger people to staff your kitchens, drive-thrus and dining rooms.

But did you know employees who are 25 and younger are almost twice as likely to prefer financial planning services as workers 56 or older? Offering services like financial literacy education as a benefit helps arm restaurant workers with the skills to budget money, pay bills on time and manage their money.

Further, by providing them with innovative ways to get paid—like through earned wage access (EWA)—your restaurant can help employees access their pay before payday to meet their financial obligations now. By giving workers immediate access to their earnings through a pay card, you’re providing an easy and secure way to manage their hard-earned money. Further, EWA sets your restaurant apart, helps you attract and retain talent and improves productivity. 

The great restaurant employee reshuffle

Many of the nation’s restaurant employees have gone through “pandemic epiphanies,” the aha moment that helped them redefine what they want out of work: Better pay and benefits. Flexibility. Upward mobility within the hospitality industry. Work-life balance. Financial planning services. Innovative pay like EWA.

If your restaurant is feeling the labor crunch—as most are—consider trying these methods for attracting and retaining talent during the Great Reshuffle.

Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

If that sounds familiar, perhaps it’s time to revamp and upgrade how you pay, incentivize, and treat employees. If you do, you’ll likely reap the rewards of happy, hard-working staff who will stay put and call you their employer of choice.    

Brian Radin is president of Comdata Prepaid, a FLEETCOR company that provides payment and operating technology that drives actionable insights from spending data, builds enhanced controls and positively impacts its clients’ bottom lines. The company supports more than 30,000 businesses to better manage $55B in annual fleet, corporate purchasing and payroll spending. 

Employee Management, Fast Casual, Outside Insights, Story