Given the economic doom and gloom broadcast across the media these days,
it seems odd to be simultaneously worrying about a labour shortage, but
it’s a very real issue for the foodservice industry.
|It’s imperative that you be known as a great place to work so that younger employees will recommend their friends.|
Given the economic doom and gloom broadcast across the media these days, it seems odd to be simultaneously worrying about a labour shortage, but it’s a very real issue for the foodservice industry. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) points to a shortage of labour as one of the most serious threats to the continued growth of the industry. The issue is particularly challenging in Canada’s western provinces – especially true in Alberta, where labour is already very tight and higher-paying jobs in manufacturing compete to hire workers from the labour pool. Attracting and retaining talent has never been more important than when you’re running lean and mean.
Here are a few creative solutions for managing the labour you do have while maintaining service standards.
Fight for the youth segment
The labour shortage in the foodservice industry will be intensified by a steady decrease in the number of youth that traditionally have taken on entry-level positions. Young people from ages 15 to 24 account for 44 per cent of total foodservice employment. The population of 15- to 24-year-olds is projected to decrease by 330,000 between 2006 and 2025. It’s imperative that you be known as a great place to work so that younger employees will recommend you to their friends. Many young people majoring in business will be attracted to businesses that can give them credit for co-op hours. If you have manuals that need updating or recipes that need to be costed, mention this in your advertisement for the position. You may attract some great candidates.
Fish where the fish are
List your jobs where viable candidates are looking. This may seem obvious, but most young people aren’t reading the classified ads in the newspaper. According to a 2007 study conducted by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, only 16 per cent of young adults aged 18 to 30 surveyed said that they read a newspaper every day. Just nine percent of teenagers said they read a paper every day. Comparatively speaking, 35 per cent of adults over 30 read the paper every day. Instead of the classifieds, consider advertising positions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and craigslist. You should also connect with local high schools, colleges and universities to get your jobs posted on their job boards.
Stay connected to alumni
If you maintain a positive relationship with your employees, they can be a great resource even after they leave your employment. Those students who leave to go to school or pursue other paths may just be willing to jump in and help out during a busy period. It’s a win-win: they don’t want a permanent gig and you just need the extra help for a short time.
Network with your suppliers
When you meet with salespeople or other business partners, let them know you’re looking for good people. A personal referral will be a great first step toward building a strong team. A strong team is an efficient one, and a more profitable one.
Tame the schedule
Know how to predict your busy periods so you can stagger the start times of your team. As business peaks, so do your hands on deck. If you find yourself scrambling to juggle the schedule when people call in sick or need time off, perhaps the team can work it out themselves. Consider creating a BlackBerry Messenger group or other online forum so the team can easily cover for each other should the need arise. You may also choose to try assigning each employee a buddy so they can cover for each other if needed.
Engage the team
Reward employees who come up with labour-saving ideas. Anything from organizing ingredients to staging the small wares for washing is up for grabs. For each idea that saves time and maintains quality, perhaps a bonus of twenty dollars is in order. Many companies have safety awards for divisions that run accident-free. You may even want to implement a reward system for regular attendance.
Let go of outdated systems
Are there things you still do out of habit rather than a genuine business need? Look at everything in your operation with a shrewd eye to see if there are extraneous steps or procedures. Can you shorten your hours of operation during slower times without compromising the customer experience? Can value-added frozen dough products be used strategically to save on labour? Anything being recorded manually can probably be tracked with your point of sale equipment. Is there a way to count some items during business hours so you don’t have to keep people after hours to do inventory?
Effective labour management means having the right amount of the right kind people to support the needs of your business. Too many hands and your profitability will diminish. Conversely, too few workers could mean that the customer experience will suffer. Even with the right number of people, unless they’re the right fit, your customer experience will suffer and your labour spend will be in vain. Getting this balance right is good for your business, your team and ultimately you.
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.
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