Restaurant operators face constant challenges. Hiring, scheduling, front and back-of-house management, marketing, cost control, and food safety are only the beginning of their responsibilities.
On top of this, day-to-day operations look much different than they did just two short years ago. From a focus on off-premises dining and technological innovation to navigating an ongoing labor shortage, restaurant leaders have endured a crash course in adaptation. Amidst these changes, a new generation of restaurant leaders is emerging—and contrary to popular belief, they are as passionate about the industry as ever. The current industry environment presents a monumental opportunity for those who want to remain in foodservice and move into leadership positions.
“Lots of employees are interested in learning more, advancing their careers, and making more money,” says Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts, a restaurant management platform designed specifically for restaurants. “You see it more prevalently in cooks and prep roles.”
Boesch’s father managed quick-serve restaurants when he was growing up, and he often heard his dad lament about various industry pain points—specifically scheduling. As a teenager, Boesch learned to code and came up with a simple Excel spreadsheet to help solve scheduling woes. It was such a success that eventually he quit his job as a software developer and started 7shifts.
Now, the company helps more than 650,000 restaurant professionals—one in 30 in the United States—manage schedules, tasks, timesheets, tip management, and staff communication, all in one place. 7shifts is different from other management tools, however, by virtue of its focus on employee engagement. The platform recently launched a new initiative named 7shifts Academy that helps restaurant workers gain the knowledge and skills they need to grow their businesses and succeed in their careers.
“We know from servicing this industry that its managers get thrust into positions without a lot of ramp up to what the position actually entails,” Boesch says. “When we look at what’s on the horizon, we think about how to add meaningful value across the employee life cycle—from when they are hired to how they are trained, scheduled, paid, and retained until they quit or are terminated. Whatever barrier is there, let’s knock it down and not only help my dad—but all restaurant operators.”
With 7shifts Academy, Boesch hopes to empower the next generation of restaurant workers with marketable, money-making skills that take the industry to the next level. The first four courses—Restaurant Scheduling, Daily Restaurant Management Course, Hiring and Training, and Restaurant Marketing—are a mix of audio and video lessons, blog posts, and case studies presented in easily-digestible segments.
Hiring and Training teaches the basics of interviewing and onboarding new talent. In the course, learners are instructed on how to ask effective interview questions, how to create staff training manuals and employee handbooks, and how to structure an in-house training program. In the Restaurant Scheduling course, students learn scheduling best practices and how to avoid common scheduling mistakes, plus get an overview of scheduling tools and technology.
Daily Restaurant Management teaches students how to facilitate an effective work environment and avoid common management pitfalls. Students also examine real-life trends and statistics, are introduced to digital management tools, and learn the key qualities of successful managers. Finally, the Restaurant Marketing course introduces effective marketing and branding techniques for restaurant managers. Here, students learn how to create marketing plans, digital marketing best practices, how to build and manage a website, and how to use social media to engage new and existing customers.
Boesch’s hope is that the courses—which are available at no cost to students—will help elevate the restaurant industry as a whole and encourage future leaders to aim high. “For a long time the restaurant business was a churn and burn game,” he says. “Managers would go through resumes and make hires knowing the new employee might quit in a month.”
In light of the current labor shortage, however, this mentality is no longer sustainable. Operators need dedicated, dependable employees who are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to move up in rank quickly. Eventually, Boesch wants 7shifts Academy to be a platform that is universally recognized by managers, with badges and certifications that carry prestige.
In order to attract and retain the best talent, employee engagement is critical. A paycheck is no longer enough—restaurant staff have increasingly high standards in terms of their work environment—and employers are weary of high turnover, too. For workers who do want to progress in their restaurant careers, operators must provide support and a path for them to do so. For example, if a fry cook shows interest in a new role or a more challenging position on the line, the employer might offer to pay for culinary training if they stay at the restaurant for one year.
“That kind of sentiment goes a long way in showing employees you care about them,” Boesch says. “Additionally, replacing one employee is a $3,000–$5,000 expense, depending on their role. Turnover massively affects business—the more savvy operators get that and place a big emphasis on employee retention.”
For now, 7shift Academy courses are focused on restaurant management, but the plan is to introduce more content for hourly employees, particularly on the culinary side.
“We definitely want to deliver educational content from culinary professionals, but for now we are providing restaurant workers with culinary grants,” Boesch says. “Applicants send in a video explaining why they want to advance their careers. If they win, the scholarship covers tuition for culinary training anywhere in North America.”
The restaurant industry may be in the midst of growing pains now, but as operators regain their footing after two of the toughest years in history, the future looks bright. And even though many recent changes are centered around technology and operational efficiency, operators mustn’t forget this simple but critical truth: The human aspect of a restaurant is ultimately why employees stay or leave. Building a better workplace and helping to provide clarity on staff’s career goals—and paths to achieve them—is a massive differentiator that builds employee trust and loyalty.
“The future of the industry is centered around employee satisfaction,” Boesch says. “Moving forward, operators must factor in feedback about employee preferences and how they want to be communicated with, then meet in the middle. It’s very much about acquiring equal balance between employee and manager needs.”
For more information about these free training courses, visit the 7shifts Academy website.
By Davina van Buren