What would you do if you lost 58% of your employees?


Low pay, difficult customers, long hours and rigid schedules, these were just a few of things that restaurant and hospitality employees had issue with before the pandemic. Then, came COVID.


Now restaurant owners and hospitality providers are facing “The Great Resignation,” a movement where service workers are quitting enmasse to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with low pay and long hours (and also policing masks or vaccine mandates).


The job search platform Joblist recently conducted a survey of 13,659 employees of restaurants and hotel employees and found that 58% intend to quit their jobs before the end of the year. This does not include the 16% that have already quit. Many experts are fearful this winter we’ll experience “The Great Resignation” – based on resignations throughout the year – it’s predicted that a fourth of hospitality workers may quit for good. According to the study, these employees are dissatisfied at unprecedented rates. 


An additional factor comes from the 11% that have already gone back to school or a training program to launch a new career. The National Restaurant Association recently published “State of the Restaurant Industry 2021”, which found a third of hospitality workers have left the industry, forever. 


Minimizing the Exodus

The majority of survey respondents suggest they would be willing to stay at their current place of employment if their employer would address some of the main reasons for their dissatisfaction. However, NPR did a study in July that found half of those who have quit would not return to the restaurant industry regardless of pay, naming customer mistreatment and being overworked with chaotic schedules as the reason. 


According to Black Box Intelligence, two thirds said they might return if employers committed to higher pay, consistent schedules, and improvement to the overall work environment. These types of changes will certainly be how to keep good restaurant employees and discourage employees from quitting – as well as encouraging past employees to return.


If you haven’t guessed, now’s the time to implement new pay and benefit incentives – and make any other adaptations that may entice employees to stay. 


Adapting to a Smaller Workforce

To alleviate the extra strain on your remaining employees, consider introducing new technologies. There are many apps and services that will allow your staff to expedite their work. This could include QR code menus, in app ordering and payment, handheld POS systems, and automated scheduling. This is true for the back of the house too, with top-notch frozen foods that reduce prep work, limited menus, and automated product ordering. 


Most importantly, ask your employees what change they would like to see. Ask them how to reorganize, what they need, what tech could aid them, and what can be done to reinforce their commitment to the business. Making your employees feel they will have a sustainable career at your restaurant is essential. 


Your key takeaway? Get prepared. While it’s unlikely we’ll be able to completely stop the employee exodus, it can be minimized. Implement any employee incentives and changes you can, now. Implement technologies to alleviate the load and streamline the work. And make plans to communicate with your staff and your patrons about the ongoing and intensifying staffing shortage. Getting ahead of it will help you from being caught what’s been called the ‘Turnover Tsunami.’ 

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