Going into a restaurant and seeing “Help Wanted” signs is something we, as patrons, see frequently these days. In fact, about half of full-service, quick-service, and fast-casual restaurant operators said recruiting and retaining employees was their top challenge in 2022, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report.

And as the pandemic wanes and the holiday season nears, restaurateurs should consider ways to continue wooing prospective employees and keep the ones they have. This includes lessening their stress any way they can.

Challenges persist in the industry

Restaurant work is hard. I know because I used to do it. Servers, hosts, and food-prep staff spend long hours on their feet. Wages are improving but still low considering inflation, benefits are often minimal, and customers can be challenging, to say the least.

Most restaurants deal with understaffed shifts as soon as the holiday season begins—and sometimes staffing emergencies happen in the middle of service. It can be difficult for restaurant managers to keep loyal employees, especially during the chaos of the holidays.   

Employers have made attempts to attract those still interested in restaurant jobs, but it is hard to create an enticing offering when budgets are tight.

To keep top talent and attract new restaurant workers, consider the following.

Provide flexible scheduling

Consider flexible scheduling because it can be difficult to get personnel at any time of the year, but especially around the holidays when restaurants are busier than usual.

A recent study found two-thirds of seasonal workers ages 16 to 34 plan to look for temporary work during the holidays but would prefer working in a retail store to foodservice. One of the main reasons is that retailers often offer employee discounts on merchandise.

Therefore, restaurants that don’t already should provide a free or discounted meal during a shift and also consider flexible scheduling of some sort to allow prospective employees to gain better control of the hours they work and give them time to enjoy holiday gatherings, too.

Offer on-demand pay

A benefit that is quickly gaining traction in the restaurant industry and beyond is on-demand pay. Employers can offer this solution through a paycard that’s as easy to use as a debit or credit card (minus the fees) or a convenient app, which also doubles as a financial wellness tool that tracks spending habits.

By providing on-demand pay, also known as earned wage access (EWA), restaurant employees can get ahold of their pay right after working a shift, which enables financial flexibility and eliminates the need to wait for payday.

In fact, 78 percent of EWA users said access to their wages before payday helped them pay bills on time and avoid late or overdraft fees. Further, 51 percent of people using EWA said taking advantage of the benefit helped them improve their financial health.

Offering EWA can help retain these employees and create a sense of loyalty. And if you provide it and your competitors don’t, it can help attract and retain much-needed holiday help—staff that might even stay around longer than peak season.

Increase staffing beyond the holidays

One of the most challenging tasks for restaurant managers is building a reliable and strong team while putting together an employee holiday schedule that suits everyone’s availability.

With the holidays nearly here, these tips should enable you to lessen employees’ and prospective employees’ stress. Doing so could very well ensure that everyone—staff and customers alike—can eat, drink, and be merry.

Brian Brinkley is the CEO of QRails. He has over 30 years of experience in enterprise and start-up environments. He is a leader in omnichannel commerce and digital payments technology. Brian co-founded Zave Networks which was acquired by Google in 2011 and became a key component of Google Wallet. Brian has held executive roles at Sprint PCS and Lucent Technologies. Brian joined QRails as CTO in 2019 and was asked to lead QRails’ growth strategy as CEO in 2021. Brian was recognized for his innovation and leadership, being named in the Top 50 Financial Technology CEOs of 2021.

Employee Management, Outside Insights, Story