Labor is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing restaurant operators today. While rising food costs, food safety issues and competition will always be sources of anxiety for restaurateurs, labor stands out as the top concern in the minds of operators.
In a Foodservice Planning Program survey from December 2016, Technomic found that 50 percent of operators claim that increased labor costs have had the biggest impact on their bottom lines over the past five years. Nearly as many (48%) expect it to be the biggest factor over the next five years. In that survey, benefit costs, labor shortages and minimum wage increases were all cited as factors contributing to a challenging labor environment.
One trend affecting labor costs is the effect of technology on traditional methods of ordering. Today, nearly every chain has smartphone and tablet apps. First used primarily for loyalty programs, these apps now also facilitate the ordering process.
At-table ordering with tablets made its initial inroads at high-end steakhouses, which would have servers bring out iPads featuring their extensive wine lists. But the fast-casual segment quickly latched on to it for faster, more accurate service while reducing the need for human contact during the ordering process. Now, kiosk ordering is in the mix, again lessening the need for human interaction front-of-house.
Even the country’s political climate is affecting the foodservice labor force. Hopes for a foodservice-friendly ally in the White House were dashed when Andrew Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurants, withdrew his nomination as Secretary of Labor in February.
What’s more, the unsettled situation for illegal immigrants, many of whom have found their way into the entry-level jobs in the restaurant industry, may have a long-term impact on the industry’s ability to fill those positions.
What’s behind the rise in labor costs? The most obvious factor is the higher minimum wage regulations passed in many municipalities. But there are other factors at work here, too. Local statutes regarding overtime pay and paid absences are adding to regionally higher wage expenditures. And, in a tighter job market—where foodservice jobs are often looked at as demanding and underpaid—some operators have had to look at raising wages across the board to attract (and keep) good help.
Rising healthcare costs, tied with uncertainly about the future of the Affordable Care Act, have contributed as well.
While they can’t eliminate all labor problems, implementing some best practices can help operators navigate the tough seas of hiring and keeping employees:
- Implement back of house labor management tools that enable managers to streamline and automate team scheduling by easily swapping shifts, approving staff requests and communicating open shifts with key staff. These tools also help staff comply with labor law and enforce labor best practices.
- Look for new hires who are tech-savvy. As technology creeps into every aspect of the business, employees who are comfortable with technology can help make the training process easier.
- Sales competitions are an old tactic for waitstaff motivation, but consider an occasional contest or reward for other parts of the operation (such as dishwashers or accounting staff) to keep them feeling invested in the restaurant’s success.
Restaurant labor management has never been easier. Right from their phone, tablet or desktop, managers can view the schedule, approve staff requests, and communicate messages to relevant team members about shift openings or important updates. The team can just as easily view their schedule, offer, pick-up and swap shifts right from their own phone, tablet or desktop computer.
With the Teamworxrestaurant labor management solution, the entire team scheduling and coordination process is streamlined with easy-to-use functions that allow restaurant managers to keep up with team requests and automate schedule changes. View a demo of Teamworx here.
Teamworx... it just works.