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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

Leadership Facepalm, Part Two

Leadership Facepalm, Part Two

by David Klemt

Airplane email icon set against white brick wall

In a stunning example of tone-deafness and callousness, a franchisee executive sent an email that led to severe consequences.

And no, I’m not talking about the termination of the offending exec. That, in my opinion, was well deserved.

In this instance, the email has led to mass resignations and damage to a global restaurant chain’s reputation. What’s more, the negative impact to the brand’s reputation comes from consumers and employees.

Of course, I’m talking about the now-infamous Applebee’s “gas prices” email.

The Email: Labor

Let’s just jump right into the email, because…wow.

“Most of our employee base and potential employee base lives paycheck to paycheck,” writes the executive. “Any increase gas prices cuts into their disposable income.”

This could have been an excellent example of awareness and perhaps even empathy. In the context of this email, it’s appalling.

Why? Mainly because this executive appears to be celebrating the fact that Applebee’s employees, at least those who work for this franchisee, are barely earning a living wage.

“As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to go up, that means more hours employees will need to work to maintain their current level of living,” continues the author.

In this exec’s view, this franchisee is “no longer competing with the government when it comes to hiring.” He cites stimulus payments and boosted unemployment support have run out. Therefore, he reasons that people will be forced to return to the workforce.

The author further points to competitors increasing wages to recruit and retain employees. This, he figures, is untenable and some will have to close their doors. So, the labor pool will fill up and this franchisee will benefit.

The Email: Wages

Some of what I’ve laid out above is accurate. According to some estimates, about two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Additionally, it’s accurate to state that some employees will seek more hours to combat the effects of rising costs. Further, yes, the labor market is turbulent and challenging.

And, unfortunately, some independent operators are facing incredibly difficult decisions. To recruit and retain, they’ll need to be competitive and raise their wages. To pay for that, they’ll need to raise prices, passing on rising costs to customers. In some instances, for some operators, that will prove unsustainable.

However, an executive in this industry shouldn’t be delighted about any of this. And they certainly shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to potentially pay employees even less.

You see, the author of this email suggests that the franchisee can bring in new workers “at a lower wage to decrease our labor (when able).”

He then recommends monitoring employee morale to ensure that the Applebee’s operated by this franchisee is their “employer of choice.”

For me, however, the most eyeroll-inducing line is this: “Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will attract people.”

Images of printouts of the email reveal that at least a handful of recipients agreed. “Great message Sir! [sic]” reads one response. Another paints the email as “Words of wisdom.”

Clearly, the culture and environment are unhealthy.

The Consequences

Before I proceed, know this: I’m not going to name the author. It’s not remotely difficult to find the author’s name if you feel the need.

However, I will name the franchisee that finally fired him. American Franchise Capital reportedly owns more than 120 Applebee’s and Taco Bell locations in nine states.

So, to be clear, this executive didn’t work for Applebee’s directly. In fact, Applebee’s has disavowed the former executive and the email.

In the interest of clarity, it’s possible the author worked for Apple Central LLC, owned by American Franchise Capital.

As far as fallout, it was swift. According to reports, consequences were realized immediately. A Kansas franchise manager was shown the emails, printed them out for staff to discover, and comped the meals of everyone at the location. Then, he quit and the staff walked out.

Per reporting, four other Applebee’s managers quit, as did several employees. The location remained closed for at least the following day.

If reports are accurate, Applebee’s lost five managers, nearly a dozen employees, and sales from a location for at least two days. That’s just the localized fallout.

Applebee’s, of course, is distancing the company from the former executive. However, that’s not going to stanch the reputational bleeding and turnover.

As we know, a significant percentage of consumers want to know their dollars and support are going to companies that align with their values. The same is true of employees; they want to work for companies with values they can get behind.

A Final Thought

This now-infamous email was sent March 9. Just two weeks later, it was circulated and went viral. The author, gleeful about being able to hire employees “at a lower wage,” was fired before the end of March.

I’ve seen several takes on this situation, and I’ve read some accompanying leadership advice. One in particular caught my attention.

Unfortunately, it’s not because I thought it was great advice: Be cautious about what you send via blast emails.

I’m not saying one shouldn’t be careful about what they send out in emails—that’s good advice. However, that’s not the lesson I’ve learned from this situation.

Personally, I see this as a lesson in emotional intelligence, relationship intelligence, brand culture, and work environment.

At least two companies, one with annual sales in the billions of dollars, another in the hundreds of millions, have had their reputations tarnished. The fault may not lie with Applebee’s but they’ll be dealing with the consequences regardless.

If an operator is going to learn anything about being cautious, it’s this: Be cautious when hiring those in leadership positions. Be cautious about those with whom you enter into partnerships. And be careful about how you view those who work for you.

If you aren’t seeing those who choose to work for you as people worthy of your respect, as human beings, your brand’s culture is poisoned.

Image: Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

You’re Competing Against Chains for Labor

by David Klemt

Help sign outside business

Independent operators and local chains aren’t just competing with one another for staff, they’re up against global brands.

Unfortunately, that means competing against massive corporations that can offer higher wages and all manner of benefits.

However, smaller operations can still take steps to lure workers and fill open positions.

The Threat

In response to the labor shortage, many national and global chains are increasing hourly wages.

For example, Chipotle boosted wages for hourly workers to $15 per hour a few months back. Along with this boost in wages came a hike in menu prices: four percent across the board.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s also announced they would boost hourly pay. Hourly workers saw a boost of about ten percent. Of course, this chain also found itself dealing with increased supply costs. To offset a rise in costs of at least four percent, McDonald’s also boosted menu prices.

The latest to enter the labor fray is Starbucks. And like other chains, the corporation addressed the issue of hourly wages publicly.

Indeed, Starbucks’ announcement shares several details. First, staff who have worked for the company for a minimum of five years could see a pay raise of ten percent. Those who have been with the company for at least two years (but less than ten) could get a raise of five percent.

However, it doesn’t end there. Starbucks workers in the United States can take advantage of $200 referral bonuses. On average, Starbucks says hourly wages will range from $15 to $23 per hour, with an average of $17 per hour. The company expects these wage changes to be in place by Summer 2022.

Solutions

Of course, one doesn’t have to need revenue in the tens of millions or billions of dollars to compete for staff.

We’ve addressed this topic several times on the KRG Hospitality site. In particular, we’ve brought up increasing menu prices to support wage hikes. Specifically, we recommend borrowing from Chipotle and McDonald’s: Be transparent and explain why menu prices are going up.

Additionally, Bar Hacks guests like Chef Brian Duffy and Lynnette Marrero have spoken about this topic.

As Chef Duffy says during his second appearance, treating staff better is a big step toward reducing turnover. Word spreads among hospitality workers, and improved employer-employee relations is an excellent recruitment tool.

Another effective benefit? Flexible and improved scheduling which, of course, can be implemented easily via scheduling apps.

Mentorship is a powerful recruiting and retention tool. Both Chef Duffy and Marrero believe in the power of this benefit. They have decades of experience to pass on to staff that can help their careers.

Marrero also suggests implementing labor structures that corporations don’t offer. For instance, she suggests new operators are well positioned to offer earned equity, profit sharing, and co-op ownership structures.

Existing operators can also leverage Marrero’s ideas. However, they’ll need agreement from their investors if they have any.

Now that you know where labor threats are coming from, you can strategize and fight back. You may not have billions of dollars in the bank, but you’re nimble and can implement changes much more quickly. Listen to your staff and be open to making meaningful but reasonable concessions.

Image: Fernando Venzano on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Incentive Economy: What are You Offering?

The Incentive Economy: What are You Offering?

by David Klemt

Chef's knife and honing rod crossed on cutting board

You know about the gig economy but are you familiar with the incentive economy?

It’s quite simple, and there are myriad ways for operators to engage with it. In fact, you likely already participate in the incentive economy in some way.

To put it succinctly, the incentive economy is all about the perks of a job beyond a paycheck.

The Old Ways are Out

On episode 53 of our Bar Hacks podcast, Chef Brian Duffy addresses the need for changes in our industry directly.

First, he tackles the lack of transparency in leadership by some operators. As Chef Duffy says, “That’s an old school way of doing it. That was an old school way, that was the Eighties.”

According to the chef, and we wholeheartedly agree, we now find ourselves in a “different phase” in the industry.

Then, Chef Duffy takes on how leadership in the industry treats staff.

One effective recruiting and hiring incentive Chef Duffy offers on the podcast deals with scheduling. None of his cooks close both nights of a weekend. He also posts schedules two weeks in advance so there are, A) no surprises, and B) if staff need to swap or drop, they have time to do so without impacting the business.

This simple scheduling incentive is attractive to new hires and existing staff. Why? Because working unpredictable, erratic hours is stressful.

“That ruins your life,” explains Chef Duffy.

If operators want to attract new hires, keep their team together, and reduce turnover, listening to staff about scheduling is crucial.

Things Need to Change

Chef Duffy shares a story on the podcast about his daughter and her experience working at a restaurant operated by a hospitality group.

No, he doesn’t name the group or the concept. The who isn’t the point here, it’s the what.

That what is how leadership bungled not only a scheduling issue but also how they botched Chef Duffy’s daughter’s two-week notice, her final shifts, and her final pay.

For more context, his daughter wasn’t a new hire who bailed after perceiving she had been treated poorly. She had worked at that restaurant for a year, there were ongoing issues, and she finally left.

As we all know, we’re down about a million jobs in this industry. That loss isn’t simply because of the pandemic. Our industry is undergoing a seismic cultural shift and we’re losing people who won’t return to hospitality.

Things need to change if we’re going to reverse this trend and strengthen the industry. KRG Hospitality president Doug Radkey addresses the change we need in his latest book, Hacking the New Normal. Chef Duffy addresses some of the necessary changes on our podcast as well.

“We can complain as much as we want, but we created it,” Chef Duffy says. “We as owners and operators and managers, we created what’s happening right now.”

Get Creative

The only limits to incentivizing your staff are your imagination, staying consistent with policies and procedures, being respectful of your staff and guests, and the law. Remain in those confines and get creative.

An incentive doesn’t need to be a grand gesture or prize. In many instances, something that makes a shift more fun and breaks up the monotony is enough to energize the staff.

“I want my staff, I want my front-of-house staff, to know what my sales goal is for the day,” says Chef Duffy. “And then I want to run a contest with that.”

One of the chef’s favorite contests is simple and highly motivating: Follow the Twenty.

Chef Duffy puts a twenty-dollar bill into play against a particular item or menu category. For example, either a specific dessert or any dessert.

Whenever a team member sells a dessert, they get the $20 that’s in play. If a different person sells another dessert, they get the twenty. Follow the Twenty incentivizes the first person to sell more of an item to hang onto the money, and the game motivates the rest of the staff to outperform their coworker to get the prize.

The last member of staff to sell a dessert that shift or day keeps the money.

Offering another creative incentive he’s seen, Chef Duffy shares that there’s a restaurant out there offering a free tattoo to kitchen staff that stays for at least 30 days. Will some staff leave after they get their tattoo? Possibly. Hiring wisely, implementing training policies and procedures, treating staff with respect, making scheduling easier and more flexible, ensuring clear communication is embedded in the fabric of your brand’s culture, and offering further incentives can prevent that turnover.

Offer Ongoing Education

“We live in an incentive world now,” says Chef Duffy. Explaining that he doesn’t operate large kitchens, large bars, or employ large teams, he admits he can only do so much in terms of incentives.

However, his approach to incentivizing staff to stay starts with this example of true leadership: “The one thing I can do is treat my employees well.”

With decades of experience in the industry, Chef Duffy’s knowledge is something he can offer his staff. A big believer in education, passing down information that can enrich team members’ careers and lives is an incredibly valuable incentive.

During a recent training session with a very young kitchen staff, the chef started with the very basics of education.

“Hey, guys, here’s a knife. This is a knife,” he said to the kitchen staff. “There’s seven different parts to a knife. Here’s the most powerful part, here’s the most precise part. This is how you hold it, this is what we do…”

Just reading that, it may seem like Chef Duffy was being condescending. That’s not the case. He wants to share as much of what he’s learned over the years to pass on his collected knowledge.

“I want people to feel as if they’re gaining something from me and the knowledge that I have rather than, ‘Go cut those onions and I’m gonna yell at you if you do it the wrong way,'” says Chef Duff.

Make Meaningful Change Today

Making impactful change can feel overwhelming. Let’s face it, it’s easier to just stay the course. But these days, staying the course can cost you your staff, then your guests, and then your business.

One way to start making change is to look inward at yourself, and at your leadership team.

Are your staff gaining anything from you beyond a job and paycheck? Is your leadership team mentoring and incentivizing staff? Are you, your leaders, and your team happy at work?

If the answer to those questions is “no,” do what’s reasonable to improve your brand’s work culture.

As Chef Duffy says, “The whole dynamic of it has to change and we have to take better care of our employees.”

Image: Steve Raubenstine from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership: The Other 10-second Rule

Leadership: The Other 10-second Rule

by David Klemt

Watch face showing seconds and minutes

Those who remember last week’s Friday post will recall that there’s more than one 10-second rule.

Interestingly, this “other” rule also relates to communication.

As we all know, communication is paramount to leading teams and building relationships with others.

Last Week’s Rule

Deceptively simple, last week’s 10-second rule focuses on easing tensions.

If a situation is about to boil over or is already out of control, going silent for 10 seconds can cool things off.

First, shutting up for ten seconds stops the argument cold. Second, it provides time for the person leveraging this tactic to respond rationally.

Third, it humanizes the other person. Rather than seeing an opponent, the person going quiet for ten seconds remembers that this is a team member they’re engaging.

Finally, people who use this rule say going silent tends to snap the other party out of their hostility.

Treating others with respect and dignity, along with encouraging open communication and a free flow of ideas, are hallmarks of a healthy workplace culture.

This Week’s Rule

There are, of course, similarities between this week’s rule and last week’s. Obviously, they both call for a ten-second “timeout” to talking.

Also, they both focus on humanizing the other person in the conversation.

I came across the other 10-second rule on the Accounting Today website. Accountant and author Kyle Walters writes that his rule is also simple: If Walters talks for ten consecutive seconds during a client meeting, he stops to ask an open-ended question. Crucial to the process is that Walters then gives the person answering time to talk.

Now, while Walters applies this to client meetings, it’s useful for conversation in general. As he points out, it breaks the bad habits of dominating conversations; giving off the impression that you’re selfish and don’t care about the others in conversations; and not listening to others.

Anyone who leads a team; needs to develop relationships with suppliers, distributors, contractors, investors, banks, inspectors, etc.; and wants to build relationships with guests knows that listening is crucial.

Sure, ten seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time. However, take the time to actually see how many thoughts you can fire off in ten seconds. You’ll see how much talking for that “small” amount of time can quickly seem domineering if you don’t stop to include others in the conversation.

There’s also the “small” detail that you’re not having a conversation if you’re not listening—you’re just delivering a speech…and it’s probably not a good one.

It takes work to break bad habits. However, the benefit to your personal growth, leadership abilities, and business are worth the effort.

Image: Agê Barros on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership: What is the 10 Second Rule?

Leadership: What is the 10 Second Rule?

by David Klemt

Message icon and emoji in form of white neon sign

Anyone who spends any time reading publications that focus on business will come across the “10 Second Rule.”

So, what is this rule? And why should you care?

After all, many entrepreneurs who enter hospitality do so partially to reject “corporate life.”

Adapt Rather than Reject

First, let me say that we understand the allure of eschewing the traditional business world. KRG Hospitality is itself a rebellion against corporate life.

However, we believe that some proven business strategies absolutely have a place in independent restaurant and bar operations.

Indeed, there are lessons independent and boutique operators can learn from their chain and corporate counterparts.

Conversely, independent and boutique entrepreneurs can teach chains quite a few things.

In fact, there are chain operations out there that go to great lengths to appear independent. They strive to leverage the perception that they’re local and small.

So, rather than outright reject corporate strategies and tactics, operators should adapt them to streamline operations, reduce costs, maximize profits, and thrive long-term.

Ten Seconds

Hospitality and foodservice are fast-paced—that’s not news. When front and back of house find themselves in the weeds, passions rise quickly. Often, a blow-up is on the menu.

The same can be true during shift and staff meetings. Perhaps one or two employees aren’t engaging, or maybe there’s a long-simmering issue that’s close to boiling over.

Or, perhaps a change to operations and expectations—the reason for the meeting—immediately ruffles feathers. This rule also applies to one-on-one discussions between ownership, management, and staff.

Engaging in a dust-up can be tempting. Not many people appreciate having their authority questioned or perceived slight left unaddressed.

The 10 Second Rule I’m addressing pertains to communication. Of course, we all know communication is often two things: crucial and difficult.

Simply put, the 10 Second Rule tells us to be quiet for ten seconds. If tensions are rising (often accompanied by volume), put an end to the situation by shutting up and counting to ten.

According to people who champion this rule, a few things happen: the person who implements stops feeding the tension; that same person can now respond without emotion; it provides time to remember that the other party isn’t just an opponent; and the other party tends to also cool off.

It’s a simple rule that can have a huge impact on workplace culture. A healthier, more positive culture leads to happier staff, which improves recruiting and retention. That’s a huge payoff for just ten seconds.

Image: Jason Leung on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

EEOC Clarifies Vaccine Stance

EEOC Clarifies Vaccine Stance

by David Klemt

Covid-19 vaccine vial on blue background

American employers have the right to require Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.

This is according to recent clarifications from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Perhaps learning from yet more missteps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EEOC is making their position clearer.

Requirements

Per the EEOC, requiring workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t violate federal law.

However, an employer failing to provide “reasonable accommodation” in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be illegal.

According to the EEOC’s guidance update:

“Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations. Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.”

Additionally, employers who offer on-site vaccinations take on an additional responsibility. They must keep confidential any personal medical information gleaned during employee pre-vaccination screenings.

Of course, the agency’s guidance isn’t only for employers. Employees can access a fact sheet explaining pandemic-specific protections that are in place.

Incentives

The EEOC’s update also addresses the right for employers to offer employees vaccine incentives.

In short, the agency says incentives are legal as long as they’re not coercive. Of course, legal experts will argue that one person’s perception of coercion will differ from another’s.

Really, the only example the EEOC provides for what may constitute a coercive incentive is “a very large incentive” that may make an employee “feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.”

Per a survey by Arizona State University and the Rockefeller Foundation, two-thirds of employers plan to offer vaccination incentives rather than mandates. However, nearly half say they’ll implement mandates if incentives don’t work. Only one-third of survey respondents don’t plan to impose vaccination requirements on employees.

Challenges

Look, we all know America is a litigious society. Given that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some states have already banned vaccine requirements and passports.

Nor should it be a shock that lawsuits have been filed by employees challenging the legality of vaccine requirements. At least half of US states have introduced bills seeking to seek to limit COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Operators have a lot to consider when it comes to vaccine requirements and incentives. For example, offering the incentive that fully vaccinated employees can go maskless at work while non-vaccinated workers must wear masks can be a form of discrimination.

Beyond legal challenges, operators must also contend with public perception and backlash. With the divisions plaguing America currently, operators have a lot to think about before requiring Covid-19 vaccines for employees. While some guests will view such requirements as a responsible move that protects employees, guests and the public, others will see it as a massive violation of personal freedoms and a form of tyranny.

Truly, this is a time when operators must seriously draw on their leadership abilities, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Clearly, the topics of vaccine requirements and vaccine incentives necessitate careful consideration. This is an important leadership moment that hinges on an operator’s understanding of their team, their guests, and the market in which they operate.

Do not make vaccine decisions lightly.

Disclaimer

This content is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as legal or other advice. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor does any information constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law. This information is of a general nature and does not address the circumstances of a specific individual or entity. The reader of this information alone assumes the sole responsibility of evaluating the merits and risks associated with the use of any information before making any decisions based on such information.

Image: Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Reality of Hiring Right Now

The Reality of Hiring Right Now

by David Klemt

Help Wanted sign taped in window

Operators can add recruitment, hiring and retention among to the growing list of challenges they’re facing due to the pandemic.

Labor struggles aren’t exactly a shock to the hospitality industry.

However, the speed with which the many stark predictions of labor shortages and challenges across North America has caught some by surprise.

Outlook: Brutal

Fast-casual to fine dining. Independent to chain. Regional hospitality group to multi-national powerhouse.

No operator, no concept, no market appears immune to today’s recruitment, hiring or retention challenges.

It’s not the only reason but the federal boost to unemployment is exacerbating the situation. Restaurant operators across America have been reporting that their workers are making more on unemployment than they would make returning to their jobs.

It’s likely the hiring situation won’t improve until the end of August or start of September; the federal boost to unemployment is set to expire on September 6.

Of course, that points to another glaring industry issue: livable wages and benefits.

The pandemic didn’t cause the labor shortage and hiring problem on its own, but it certainly hasn’t helped anything. Some operators throughout North America say they’ve been hunting for workers for all positions for months.

Incentives & Bonuses

Operators are fighting for workers. To many reading this, that’s not a surprise. However, many operators report fighting to even get candidates to show up for interviews.

Famously, one McDonald’s franchisee in Tampa, Florida, is using a $50 incentive for interviews. If a candidate manages to follow through and show up for their interview, they walk away with $50.

During a recent conversation with Chef Brian Duffy (which we’ll be releasing as episode 33 of the Bar Hacks podcast), interview incentives came up. While it’s no $50 bonus just for showing, Chef Duffy has offered candidates free lunch for appearing for their interviews. And yes, he still struggles.

Interestingly, appearance incentives don’t appear to be working. What does appear to be working? Increasing starting wages, referral programs, apply-via-text functionality, and all manner of signing and performance-based bonuses.

The bonuses run the gamut. Show up for all your shifts for three or four months and earn a $500 bonus. Paying down student loans. Fronting the bill for culinary school. One restaurant in Alabama is offering an SUV to their top-performing worker later this year.

In addition to bonuses, wages are seeing a boost. Jobs that would normally start at $12 to $15 per hour are now offering starting wages of $16 to $18 dollars per hour.

No matter how one slices it, the situation leads to cost hikes across the board for operators. When costs increase for operators, prices increase for consumers. Margins shrink, the old cycle continues, the industry struggles.

Reality Check

Now, it’s simple to blame the pandemic for the current situation. To say it’s not a major factor would be incredibly disingenuous.

That said, the struggle to find and keep workers is also a culmination of decades-long, industry-wide problems.

Lack of diversity, inclusion, equality, living wages, opportunities, and transparency; failure to address social issues; inexcusable, threatening, and outright illegal behavior… All of this and much more contributes to the industry’s hiring and retention challenges.

That’s a criminally shallow summary of the situation—I’m well aware. Doug Radkey, president of KRG Hospitality, addresses the need to review and reset the industry in his book Hacking the New Normal. He takes a deep dive into rejecting the status quo in this industry.

My point is that operators can’t blame their woes solely on the pandemic, absolving themselves of responsibility.

Operators must take a hard look at themselves and their operations, and ask difficult questions. Doing so can be uncomfortable. But neither positive change nor growth come from resting in the comfort zone.

Image: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash 

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