The Increasing Importance of Employee Satisfaction in Solving Retention and Staffing Challenges

Almost every hiring manager is asking: Where have all the workers gone?

Quick Serve Restaurant employee turnover has long exceeded 100 percent. Trying to attract workers from a limited post-pandemic labor pool, restaurants have had to considerably step up their efforts to fill open positions and keep employees. 

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

During Covid-19, as restaurants closed or limited service, furloughed or terminated employees found employment elsewhere, taking positions in adjacent industries such as retail. Opportunities in Amazon warehouses and grocery delivery flourished as people ordered goods and food for delivery.

Meanwhile, wages have increased, forcing restaurants to compete with higher pay scales.

The challenge continues. In a January 2022 report, the National Restaurant Association stated that 28% of understaffed full service operators and 33% of understaffed limited-service operators said their restaurant was more than 20% below necessary staffing levels in November 2021.

What are Restaurants Doing to Attract Workers?

Restaurants have begun trying a range of tactics to recruit and retain crew members.

Recruitment. Drive by almost any readerboard these days, and you’ll see ‘Now Hiring! Text to apply.’ Restaurants are reducing friction in the application process. Hiring parties, sign-on and referral bonuses, and instant interviews are a few other ways that brands are filling staffing gaps. 

Retention. This is where restaurant brands have really demonstrated that they place a high value on their human resources. One-time ‘thank-you’ bonuses, retention bonuses, a wage increase structure geared toward retention, along with education, retirement savings, paid time off, and childcare assistance benefits can keep workers on your payroll, especially in today’s inflationary economy. But the financial remuneration naturally puts pressure on margins. So employers have also turned to flexible schedules and ‘work today, get paid today’ arrangements. 

Training. Seventy percent of restaurant employees say they do not receive enough hands-on training from managers, with 62 percent saying that a lack of training was the main reason for leaving their job. So some restaurant operators are offering training and professional advancement to help engage and retain employees.

Boosting employee job satisfaction. In fast-paced restaurant jobs where speed, quality, and teamwork are especially critical, restaurants that focus on culture find a high degree of success. An awesome culture not only acts like a magnet to attract and keep workers; it also spills over into better teamwork and superior guest experiences. Ever seen a Chik-fil-A restaurant employee grimace? Smiles are more the norm. Their culture is contagious, and guests notice.

In addition to building a magnetic culture, brands can focus on operational improvements and rolling out technology advancements that minimize or eliminate mundane tasks in favor of favorable, more enjoyable aspects of working in food and beverage service.

Probably the most prominent example is taking orders and payment. The rise in online / in-app ordering during the recent pandemic shone a light on just how much of the ordering and payment process a guest will gladly take on. As guests return to the restaurant to dine in, offering self-order-and-pay kiosks or table-side tablets, and adopting voice assistant-based ordering in the drive-thru, for example, can free up staff to focus more on aspects of the job that more directly involve serving people and showing hospitality, and less on the mundane transactional aspects.

Thirty-eight percent of quick-service restaurant leaders plan to invest more in customer-facing and service-based technology. Guests, it appears, are not only ready to adopt technology; they are more willing to interact primarily—even exclusively—with technology to order and access food. According to a survey conducted in late 2021 by The Harris Poll on behalf of Xenial, 62% of those ages 18 to 34 said they would be willing to eliminate all human interaction at QSRs, assuming orders were fulfilled accurately and in a timely fashion. Overall, nearly 50% of those surveyed who visit QSRs said they would be okay eliminating all human interaction when ordering and receiving their meal. Interestingly, a third of guests who visit QSRs said they prefer not to interact with people unless it’s necessary.

Easy-to-use technology that is simple to learn can lead to happier employees, and better retention as well. Younger employees accustomed to technology like their smartphone or their tablet computers that use simple gestures for navigation aren’t likely to have patience for legacy technology that is difficult to learn or requires them to memorize steps. Modern POS and other restaurant technology interfaces tend to reduce friction and avoid frustration for employees and guests alike can keep employees engaged.

Want to Boost Employee Satisfaction and Retention?

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