With new restaurant positions accounting for 10% of this year’s job growth, according to The Atlantic, an annual check-in with employees might not be enough to gauge how staffers like working at a particular place. Some restaurants are trying to weather the tight labor competition by finding ways of giving and getting employee feedback on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.
“There’s some GMs that come in to do their admin, and they’re out by 5 p.m.,” says Austin Polley, general manager of Seattle’s Westward, serving northwest fare at a waterfront location. “We like for the staff to feel like they have that connection with the top.”
Here’s how Polley and other operators find time to regularly touch base with employees.
1. Daily one-on-ones
It’s crucial to make time for employees individually off the floor, Polley says. During the off-season, he meets up with each employee to find out how they’re doing. During the restaurant’s busy summer season, it can be harder to make the time each day, but Polley still finds ways to single employees out. “If I can see someone having a tough day, I let them know that I see it, and if they want to share with me, I’m here to listen,” he says.
2. Quick polls
Australian burger chain Grill’d and meal kit service Blue Apron both use employee engagement software to collect staff feedback. The technology allows operations to choose short or in-depth surveys designed by data scientists. Operators can customize the surveys to suit their goals and use the tool to benchmark results.
3. Feedback box
Creating a direct channel to leadership is part of an overall strategy to drive comradery and retention at the at DineAmic Group. Parent company of Chicago concepts including Prime & Provisions and Bar Siena, the restaurant group has created a feedback box that goes straight to the ownership. Each week, the comments are read openly by the partners. “That level of transparency allows us to make sure that everyone has a voice,” Ken McGarrie, director of operations, said at a recent industry event.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.