Recruitment

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hiring Struggles? Engage These Age Groups

Hiring Struggles? Engage These Age Groups

by David Klemt

Chef plating greens on plates

Staff turnover rates are still above pre-pandemic levels and there’s no silver bullet solution. However, two companies have some helpful advice.

Both Service Management Group and Technomic shared their tips during Restaurant Leadership Conference. Interestingly, each company has a different approach to the current hospitality industry labor problem.

In short, both SMG and Technomic advise operators to engage with vastly different age groups. However, they each have information that supports their recommendations.

Service Management Group

Jennifer Grimes, senior vice president of client services for Service Management Group, co-presented a session with Jim Thompson, COO of Chicken Salad Chick.

SMG is a software-with-a-service platform that seeks to the employee, customer, and brand experience. One crucial element of the company’s mission is the reduction of staff turnover.

During the RLC session, Grimes shared several years of hospitality turnover rates:

  • 2017: 72%
  • 2018: 75%
  • 2019: 79%
  • 2020: 130%
  • 2021: 86%

First, some context. The general consensus is that the industry’s average turnover rate has been between 70 and 80 percent for close to a decade. However, in comparison to other industries—10 to 15 percent—that’s stratospherically high.

Secondly, the turnover rate has been on rise since before the pandemic. Per some sources, the rate jumped from 66 percent in 2014 to 72 percent in 2015, a trend that continues to this day.

For SMG, the age group operators should seek to engage—generally speaking, of course—is 25 to 34 years old. Per the SWaS platform, this group was the most engaged pre-pandemic.

One reason for SMG’s suggestion is that Boomers appear to opting out of the workforce.

During the presentation by Grimes and Thompson, the latter shared that Chicken Salad Chick predicts the 2022 turnover rate to be just slightly above the 2019 rate.

Technomic

Unsurprisingly, Technomic had some numbers to share during RLC 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Per data provided by Joe Pawlak and Richard Shank, 70 percent of operators are still struggling with labor. Recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff doesn’t appear to be getting any easier four months into 2022.

Technomic also pointed out that the US saw the lowest population growth in its history last year: 0.1 percent.

Additionally, almost 17 percent of the country’s population is now at least 65 years old. In 2019, 48 percent of people 55 or older retired. That number is now just over 50 percent for the same age group.

Nearly seven million American consumers turn 60 each year, while four million turn 70 or older.

Logically, one may assume that Technomic is saying a significant portion of the US population is leaving the workforce. So, it’s best to focus on the same age group as SMG recommends.

However, Technomic is recommending a different strategy. Per Pawlak and Shank, retirees (mostly ages 55 and up) tend to have valuable managerial skills and experience.

Obviously, those skills and all that experience can be of great benefit to operators and our industry.

Certainly, all groups should be engaged by operators seeking to recruit, hire, and develop their teams. So, as KRG Hospitality sees recruitment, operators should craft targeted, authentic messaging that appeals to each age group.

Image: Sebastian Coman Photography from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Chain Restaurants: Present & Future

Chain Restaurants: Present & Future

Woman dining with friends in restaurant

Technomic presented the state of chain restaurants, now and next, during Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Obviously, the entire hospitality industry is facing significant struggles. Rising costs, supply chain chaos, labor shortages and challenges, inflation… The past two-years-plus haven’t been easy.

However, there’s reason for operators and their leadership teams and staff to be optimistic. Additionally, independent and small-chain operators can learn from Technomic’s findings.

Challenges & Threats

Well, let’s take our medicine first, starting with the supply chain. In short, it’s bedlam.

Joe Pawlak (standing in for David Henkes) and Richard Shank of Technomic said as much during RLC 2022. Per their data, 35 percent of operators dropped at least one manufacturer between 2020 and 2021.

Whether because of rising costs, an inability to consistently deliver product, or other factors, operators had to adapt. Clearly, there’s a nasty trickle-down effect when an operator drops a supplier.

And then there’s inflation. Interestingly, Shank calls what we’re seeing currently as “existential inflation.” Relating to consumers, this means their confidence is shaken in terms of spending.

Of course, this type of consumer perception manifests in several ways. For example, some guests cut down on visits. Others will cut down on ordering, skipping appetizers and desserts. Perhaps they have one less beer, glass of wine, or cocktail.

Also, some guests “trade down.” Meaning, there are consumers who opt for casual restaurants rather than fine dining. Or, they’ll move from fast-casual to QSR.

Looking at the numbers, however, nearly 40 percent respondents to a Technomic survey say they’re visiting restaurants less. This makes sense, as 81 percent are concerned about how inflation will impact them personally.

On the operator side of inflation comes pricing. During Pawlak and Shank’s presentation, they used QSR dinner pricing as a real-world example.

According to Technomic, the tipping point for guest perception of good value is just $7. At only $10, consumers feel things are getting expensive.

As Pawlak and Shank pointed out, this is a problem. After all, the average price for dinner at a QSR is $10.08. That number may already be higher today.

Opportunities

Medicine taken, we can move to the good news.

First, Technomic predicts a strong Q3 this year. Additionally, they don’t expect double-digit year-over-year inflation.

In terms of labor, Technomic doesn’t expect costs to go down. However, they do anticipate that they’ll level off rather than rise.

Then there are the numbers. For the top 500 chains in the US in particular, 2021 was a “banner year,” according to Pawlak. On an aggregate basis, sales for the top 500 (McDonald’s is number one, for those wondering) are up 17.9 percent.

Also, every category of restaurant is performing better. The top 500 chains, for instance, are up 18 percent year-over-year. Midscale restaurants are up 38.5 percent. Casual is up 30.2 percent while fast is up 22.2 percent, QSRs are up 13.2 percent. As far as the biggest bump, fine dining is up 56.9 percent.

Looking at 2019 for obvious reasons, the industry was down 49.1 percent in sales in April 2020. However, the industry was down just about a single percentage point in February of this year compared to the same time in 2019.

So, how do we keep sales trending upward when facing inflation and other threats? Pawlak, Shank, and Technomic have some advice.

Operators, for instance, can implement the “balanced barbell” pricing strategy. In this model, high-value items drive business alongside premium offerings. In other words, don’t discount the entire menu just to entice guests to keep visiting.

Once guests get a taste for falling prices, they’ll consider the lower prices the standard. After that, any increase can be perceived as “too expensive.” Of course, discounting the whole menu also impacts guest perception of the brand negatively.

In addition, Technomic suggests offering higher net profit discount bundles, and implementing off-premise, large-party strategies.

Should Technomic’s predictions prove true, the industry may see an even stronger Q4 and start to 2023.

Image: Alex Haney on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

This Simple Test Reveals Process Problems

This Simple Test Reveals Process Problems

by David Klemt

Server helping guest in restaurant

There’s an easy way to identify whether there are changes that need to be made to processes and practices that only requires observation and time.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much time, either. In less than a week, an operator can determine if there are issues relating to onboarding new hires.

This simple test was shared during the 2022 Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale.

Interviews are Just the Start

It should go without saying but here we go: The hiring process doesn’t end with the interview.

An operator or their leadership team found an amazing job candidate? Awesome! That’s no small feat these days.

However, that’s just the first step in hiring and building a rock star restaurant, bar or hotel team.

Step two is onboarding, step three is training, and step four is advancement.

For KRG Hospitality, onboarding goes far beyond filling out federal and state paperwork. There’s more to it than setting up direct deposit and getting a new hire on the schedule.

Rather, operators need to implement a fully developed onboarding process. The key word there is “process.”

True onboarding includes the review of an employee handbook and an introduction to the business. During this process new hires should become familiar with the brand’s history, vision, culture, mission, and core values.

By the end of this process, a new team member should understand what’s expected of them, both in their individual role and behaviorally. Additionally, they should be introduced to the entire team.

In reality, the onboarding process is the development of a professional relationship.

The Test

Technically, the actual test for operators is for them to have in-depth hiring, onboarding and training processes in place.

So, operators should take a moment to review whether they have those processes.

However, the test I’m talking about here relates to onboarding directly. It’s simple and it was shared during RLC 2022 by Jim Thompson, COO of Chicken Salad Chick.

The only requirement is a few days’ time and an observant operator and/or leadership team.

Let’s say a candidate nails the interview. In particular, their personality is perfect for the available role. As the the hospitality industry maxim goes, hire for personality, train for skills.

The new hire works their first shift but their personality doesn’t shine through. However, that could be first-day jitters. Unfortunately, that personality the leadership team hired for is nowhere to be seen during their next few shifts.

According to Thompson, if a new hire’s personality doesn’t shine through within four shifts, there’s likely a process and practices issue. The lack of personality is an indicator that the new team member doesn’t feel confident in their role.

The onboarding process—either too shallow or nonexistent—is a likely culprit. Operators can use this test, a simple four-shift observation of a new hire, to determine if there’s a problem.

Once identified, the operator and their leaders can put their heads together, review the issue, and implement effective, positive change.

Image: Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Uber Effect: Recruit and Retain

The Uber Effect: Recruit and Retain

by David Klemt

Person using Uber app on phone

To better understand how to recruit and retain top talent these days we can simply look at what’s known as the Uber Effect.

We just got back from the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The education was top-notch, featuring a wide range of restaurant industry experts.

One outstanding session illustrates the need for operators—chain and independent—to change their approach to recruiting and retaining staff.

Flexibility in the Workplace

According to Jennifer Grimes, senior vice president of client services for Service Management Group, people in the labor pool are after three things when seeking employment.

Generally speaking, they want better pay, better benefits, and better scheduling. Gone are the days of people focusing only on their paychecks.

And per Jim Thompson, chief operating officer of Chicken Salad Chick, the Uber Effect is largely responsible for this shift in focus. The Uber Effect refers to people realizing they can be much more in control of their careers.

In simplest terms, Uber drivers are in control of their workdays. They can work as often as they want, whatever hours they want, and wear what they want while working.

Of course, it’s not complete anarchy. There are rules, there are expectations, there are standards. However, there’s also flexibility.

Along with more flexibility in scheduling, people want the following:

  • workload balance;
  • ability to trade shifts;
  • better communication; and
  • paid vacations.

Today’s modern scheduling platforms make it simple for operators and their leadership teams to meet these expectations. With these apps, operators and leadership can:

  • assign specific roles to individual team members;
  • communicate clearly with staff;
  • allow staff to trade, drop, and pick up shifts; and
  • fill available shifts.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Thompson has an interesting anecdote about availability.

A Chicken Salad Chick manager conducting interviews didn’t proceed with a candidate. Asked by Thompson why they wouldn’t be moving forward, the manager pointed to the candidate’s availability.

During the interview, the candidate provided only a single day and the manager felt that wasn’t enough. However, Thompson disagreed with the manager’s assessment.

What if, Thompson posited Thompson, their availability filled a currently open shift? At least there would be one less shift for leadership to worry about.

But it went deeper than just that point. Good operators and leaders know that job interviews aren’t one-way streets. Candidates are also interviewing their potential employer.

What if this candidate provided limited availability because they’re unsure about a particular employer? They may not know the brand all that well, they likely don’t know the leadership team, and they don’t yet understand the workplace’s culture.

As Thompson says, “One size fits all is over.” Operators and their leadership teams need to be flexible.

It’s highly possible that just a few shifts in, if the narrow-availability team member is a good fit and finds the job engaging, they’ll broaden they’re availability.

Developing the Culture

Of course, the above scenario comes down to culture. And Thompson has an interesting thought on that operational element.

If an operator isn’t constantly developing their culture, it will grow stagnant. Maintaining the current culture isn’t good enough.

Failing to do so will ultimately lead to a decline in guest satisfaction. When that happens, a decline in traffic comes along with it.

It’s really rather simple: How an operator and the leadership team treats employees trickles down to guests. Unhappy and unsatisfied staff provide poor service. How long are guests going to tolerate negative guest experiences?

And no, simply offering competitive compensation doesn’t automatically equate to treating staff well.

“Competitive pay, to me, is the cost of entry,” says Thompson.

To this point, the COO, also the self-appointed chief smile officer, addresses how the restaurant chain respects personal time.

Chicken Salad Chick, founded in 2008, is closed on Sundays. This isn’t due to any religious influence. Rather, the founders, per Thompson, were influenced by what they perceived as a high divorce rate in the restaurant space.

So, the brand wants employees to have family time. That’s also why there stores are also closed by 8:00 PM. In some cases, they close at 5:00 or 7:00 PM. Again, personal and family time.

Could they generate more revenue if they opened earlier and closed later? Probably. However, their culture is crucial to their success.

Takeaway

If operators want to begin the process of truly developing a positive workplace culture, there are several questions Thompson suggests operators and their leaders should ask.

Is the brand purpose driven? Does focus on fun, family, and culture?

How can the business offer incremental value to staff? Are the pay and benefits competitive? Is the workplace safe and are their opportunities for staff to advance?

What’s the community like within the four walls? How’s the energy within those walls?

Are the processes and practices in place helping or hindering recruitment and retention? How can the processes be simplified so employees learn what they need to know quickly?

How flexible is the business, honestly? What’s being done to truly help leadership create better relationships with the team?

Finally, I’ll end on something interesting from Grimes. Analyzing employee engagement, SMG has found that isn’t just about compensation.

In fact, when it comes to what makes most people perceive their job as fulfilling, the top influencer is working with people they like. Second is salary and benefits. Third, rewarding work.

Operators need to adapt to employee expectations, just as they need to focus on those of guests. Sitting down with their leadership teams to discuss Thompson’s questions is a great first step toward developing a culture that works and rewards.

Image: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Creating a Strengths Profile

Creating a Strengths Profile

by Jennifer Radkey

Unsolved Rubik's Cube against black background

When looking to improve the performance of your hospitality business it is natural to seek out weaknesses and attempt to “fix” them.

What if you were to take an entirely different approach?

Instead of focusing on weaknesses to improve upon, we should seek to identify and build upon our strengths.

Why Strengths?

Using our strengths is like writing with a dominant hand. It comes naturally and easily.

Strengths can be cultivated and used to assist in overcoming challenges and in improving upon weaknesses. If we were to focus only on improving our weaknesses it would be tiring, and the probability of giving up could increase.

However, if we focus on building upon our strengths, it would be motivating and energizing, therefore making us stronger and then more likely to overcome our weaknesses.

Lost and Found

Do you ever visit a restaurant, bar, or hotel and get no clear sense of their identity?

Maybe their menu is confusing, their social media presence is either nonexistent or only shares their daily specials, there is no consistency in service. They just seem…lost.

Now seriously take a minute and walk through your establishment with fresh eyes as if it were your first time there. Is your brand’s identity clear or lost? As we get wrapped up in the day-to-day operations and stressors, becoming lost can easily happen.

Identifying your brand’s strength profile can help you find your distinct identity again. Even if you aren’t lost there is always room to strengthen your brand.

The Background

In the field of positive psychology, psychologists Chris Peterson and Marty Seligman headed a project to seek out what characteristics describe humans at their very best.

After scouring literature, media, music, etc., spanning countries and history, they compiled a list of 24 character strengths that appear to be valued over time and culture.

This list was referred to as the Values in Action Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues (VIA). The VIA is meant to classify individual strengths but can also be applied to organizations and businesses.

The 24 Character Strengths

The list of strengths is as follows:

  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Love of Learning
  • Perspective and Wisdom
  • Bravery
  • Persistence
  • Integrity
  • Vitality
  • Capacity to Love and be Loved
  • Kindness
  • Social Intelligence
  • Citizenship
  • Fairness
  • Leadership
  • Forgiveness
  • Humility/Modesty
  • Self-Regulation
  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope/Optimism
  • Humour
  • Spirituality

If you want to dive deeper into the VIA character strengths or would like to take the free survey yourself to find out what your top character strengths are, please visit www.authentichappiness.org through Penn State University and take the VIA Survey.

Creating a Strengths Profile for Your Hospitality Business

Now that you have the list of 24 character strengths, think about the top three strengths that you believe capture your brand at its very best. Think both about your venue’s operations and its messaging when deciding upon the top three.

Then ask your team to do the same. Hold a team meeting in which everyone shares which three character strengths they chose and why.

I recently did this with our team here at KRG Hospitality and found the process enlightening. It was fascinating to see which character strengths were repeated, providing clarity into our brand’s strengths profile.

Establishing Your Top Three

As you review everyone’s answers as to the character strengths they feel best capture your brand at its very best, take note of strengths that repeat themselves.

For us at KRG Hospitality, creativity, perspective and wisdom, and love of learning were the most common replies. We then had our strengths profile.

Discuss what you feel the strengths profile for your brand is with your team and solidify a top three.

What Next?

Once you have a strengths profile built, it’s time to dissect it.

How are you already using these strengths in both your day-to-day operations and in how you are representing yourself to the outside world? How can you use them in new and unique ways?

For example: If one of your strengths is creativity, are you using it to your advantage in many aspects of your business? Maybe your menu is super creative, but your social media posts are dull. Maybe your interior design is creative and fresh, but your training lacks creativity.

Is one of your top strengths kindness? What are you doing to emphasize that strength and is your community aware and benefiting from it?

Think about your strengths in new and exciting ways to energize your team and build an overall stronger business.

Shout it Out!

Take pride in your brand’s strengths. Make it known to your team, potential new hires, guests and potential guests what your strengths are by living them and growing them each and every day.

The stronger your team and your brand is, the more confidence you will have. With strong confidence you can approach weaknesses and obstacles with a healthy mindset and higher chance of success.

Take the time to really know your brand and understand how you are representing yourself and you won’t be disappointed. Cheers to personal and professional well-being!

Image: Pixabay on Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

4 Tips for Recruiting and Retention

4 Tips for Recruiting and Retention

by David Klemt

Server walking through restaurant carrying tray

Operators seeking to survive and thrive despite the Great Resignation can give themselves an edge with these four concepts.

Attract New Talent

KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey doesn’t find the struggle to fill restaurant, bar and hotel positions all that shocking.

Why? Because too many operators post generic, cookie-cutter job listings. Doing what everyone else is doing has never been advisable for those looking to stand out.

Instead, Doug suggests a more unique approach to job ads, an approach that helps operators stand above the competition.

Step one is avoiding banal listing language:

  • “Are you friendly, energetic, and highly motivated?”
  • “Are you an experienced and enthusiastic [insert position]?”
  • “The ideal candidate must work well in a fast-paced environment and be a team player.”
  • List of basic job tasks.

Instead, Doug suggests the following:

  • Hire for values rather than experience. Training addresses systems and standards, not personality and drive.
  • Operators should be transparent about their core values, company culture, and potential for growth.
  • Showcase the approach to inclusivity, diversity, acceptance, and flexibility. That is, if that’s authentic. If not, that’s a flashing, neon red flag that requires addressing.
  • Offer a living wage, benefits, potential for personal growth, and education.
  • Produce a video of team members sharing why they work at the company. This must be genuine and honest.

Demand creates competition. Innovation beats the competition.

Actually Onboard New Hires

So, an operator adjusts their approach to filling open positions. They recruit and hire promising employees.

Sadly, it’s common for new hires in hospitality and foodservice to leave in just a few months. Rather than accept this as the norm, operators have a tool at their disposal for improving employee retention: Onboarding.

Too many operators think the next step after hiring someone is providing a start date, showing them the front- and back-of-house, and hoping things will work out.

Well, hope isn’t a strategy.

The next step after hiring someone is onboarding and should include the following:

  • Complete all pertinent paperwork and setting up access to systems. If applicable, set up direct deposit.
  • Provide new hire with detailed employee handbook. If there isn’t one yet, that must be addressed.
  • Share the story of the business (history, area, etc.) and workplace culture.
  • Outline expectations: Policies, rules and responsibilities.
  • Explain benefits, such as health insurance and mentorship opportunities.
  • Provide training and assign shadowing.
  • Deliver feedback on trained tasks.

The above list obviously has room for more onboarding tasks. Operators should create a physical onboarding checklist. Also, they should require the person or people tasked with onboarding to complete and sign off the checklist (even if that person is the operator).

Nail recruiting, hiring and onboarding and word will get out. The result? Hiring gets easier and turnover decreases.

Focus on Workplace Culture

Doug addressed workplace culture and the labor shortage on Bar Hacks bonus episode number 16.

Simply put, operators need to take an honest look at their culture.

Is it inclusive and accepting? Transparent and nurturing? Do employees feel comfortable bringing up workplace issues? (More on that last one below.)

Hospitality is fast-paced and demanding—owners and managers shouldn’t add to the stress.

Why would anyone want to work in for someone who isn’t going to treat them and their coworkers with respect, mentor them and nurture their career, and value their input?

It’s every operator’s responsibility to be good stewards of hospitality professionals’ passion for this industry. We do them a disservice when we turn a blind eye to an unhealthy workplace culture that has taken hold, crushing their love of his business and driving them away.

Value Employee Feedback

Yes, guest feedback is valuable. However, so is feedback from employees.

It’s important for operators to remember not to focus solely on guests.

True, a business isn’t a business without customers. Equally true: It’s not a business without employees.

So, operators should foster a work environment in which employees feel comfortable sharing honest feedback. This is, of course, where culture comes into play.

If employees don’t feel safe sharing their opinions and suggestions, operators won’t truly know what it’s like to work for them. Without that feedback, employee turnover will skyrocket, recruiting and hiring will be an endless struggle, and the guest experience will suffer.

We all know what happens if guests pick up on an uncomfortable restaurant, bar or hotel environment: They don’t return.

Operators can’t expect their businesses to thrive (or just survive) if they focus solely on guests.

Putting these concepts to work can help operators succeed despite the Great Resignation of 2021.

Image: Shangyou Shi on Unsplash

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