Tips to Get Around the Restaurant Industry's Labor Shortage

    Restaurants first need to find the people who are willing to work in the industry.

    Outside Insights | September 27, 2021 | Denise Macik
    Women buying barbecue potatoes on a food truck.
    Adobe Stock
    The hospitality industry is a great place for young people to start earning wages and learning about responsibility, work ethics, and serving others.

    With national labor shortages making the news in every industry, and the hospitality industry being hit the hardest, competing for workers has become a critical initiative for most employers attempting a post-pandemic rebound.

    According to job-search platform Joblist’s Q2 2021 United States Job Report, “Many restaurants, bars, and hotels are raising pay and offering other incentives to try to lure workers back to their open roles. Job seekers with hospitality experience were more likely to respond that higher pay would incentivize them to change their minds (39 percent compared to 22 percent of job seekers without hospitality experience). They were also much more likely to say that more benefits (23 percent compared to 12 percent) or a bonus (20 percent versus 9 percent would help lure them back.”

    What workers want

    Considering the changes in the economy, the political climate, and worker availability, businesses need to develop an incentives program that will recognize and reward their employees for their hard work. Workers in this industry are often having to cover extra shifts due to the labor shortage, and they have their own fears, concerns, and family needs weighing on their minds. Consider offering gift cards or monetary bonuses as a show of appreciation for your top performers. Turnover costs a lot of time and money, so retention should be a primary goal.

    The Joblist report showed that among those with hospitality industry experience, 19 percent desire more schedule flexibility. This is becoming a common demand from job hunters across all industries. Offering some degree of schedule flexibility could help employers make their open positions more appealing.

    Additional benefits to consider include:

    • A tuition-reimbursement program similar to those Starbucks and McDonald’s have set up for their employees
    • A childcare stipend to assist with daycare costs
    • Inexpensive ancillary benefits such as voluntary vision, dental, and life insurance, as well as wealth-management and mental-healthcare options in the form of an Employee Assistance Program

     

    “While workplace benefits are not quite as important to job seekers as financial compensation, they don’t rank far behind,” Joblist’s report said. “Nearly 80 percent of job seekers ranked workplace benefits as ‘important’ or ‘very important,’ and 43 percent of job seekers said that benefits are more important than financial compensation when considering a new job. Fifty-five percent would even consider taking a lower-paying job that offered better benefits.”

    Where to find workers

    While these statistics may offer employers some insight on where to start with their hiring-incentives program, they first need to find the people who are willing to work in the industry.

    A good place to start the search is with professional retiree organizations (i.e., retired teachers, retired military, and others). Organizations such as these may provide access to workers who have a flexible schedule or who would be willing to work part-time as it will allow them to stay in the threshold of the minimum earnings required by the IRS if they receive Social Security income.

    Another place to find willing workers is through a work rehab program for people coming out of youth correctional facilities. Some restaurants have offered an internship program that allows these young people to learn about the hospitality field and become successful contributors to society.  

    Setting up internship programs with local high schools, junior colleges, and universities could help fill certain roles in the hospitality industry, while high school co-op programs could provide beneficial learning experiences to qualified students as well.

    The hospitality industry is a great place for young people to start earning wages and learning about responsibility, work ethics, and serving others. The local Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H, along with other school groups, may offer a plethora of young people under age 18 who are eager to fill open roles, so check with local high school counselors for opportunities to advertise job openings with these groups. Just be sure to abide by local, state, and federal child-labor laws.

    For those employers who are short on time, a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm can do much of the heavy lifting in the recruitment process by finding and vetting qualified workers at the places suggested above and elsewhere. Some professional employer organizations (PEOs) offer RPO services in addition to HR and benefits administration services, payroll, and other back-office functions that can really make a difference to employers hoping to expand their businesses. PEOs also offer access to affordable healthcare coverage with top insurers that many small and mid-sized companies can’t attain on their own.

    Now, more than ever, job hunters are looking for affordable healthcare and benefits that will make their hard work worthwhile. Employers should poll their employees to find out what benefits or perks they desire most and then find traditional or creative ways to implement them. When they do, they’ll have an easier time attracting and retaining reliable workers no matter what the job market looks like.

    Denise Macik is the Manager of Strategic HR Advisory Services for G&A Partners, a leading professional employer organization (PEO) that has been helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses for more than 25 years.