Reimagining the workforce

One operator shares his ideal fixes.

Some workdays are so challenging that it’s easy to fantasize about starting from scratch. Our sister magazine, FoodService Director, asked noncommerical operators to do just that: imagine how, if they could blow it all up and start again—on the same budget—they would solve their most pressing labor problems.

Many said they would increase pay if they could. Barring budget increases, however, they had already implemented many of their own ideas to ease the shortage and find, train and continue developing quality workers. Rafi Taherian, associate vice president of Yale Hospitality in New Haven, Conn., answered with ideas that hit on restaurant woes as well.  

Here are the ideas he offered, from the practical to the complex but worthwhile. 

The challenge

Finding team members who can prepare great food as well as interact on a more memorable level with customers. “We’re no longer just looking at quality service and quality food—now it’s all about quality experience, which requires a different level of engagement from our employees. How do you teach creating memories and lasting experiences for our customers?”

The ideas

  • “Audition” potential employees rather than interview them, screening for a positive attitude, interpersonal skills and willingness to learn rather than an existing skill set. “The No. 1 thing is not hiring for a dishwasher or general maintenance employee. You look and fast-forward this person—in two or three years of training, can they have upward mobility?”
  • Improve the built environment. Make workstations ergonomic and pleasant. “Our dishwashing system, for instance, is fantastic. It’s well-ventilated [and] process-oriented, and requires the least number of body motions. There’s music and nice finishes on the walls, so it’s a good place to be.”
  • Manage wisely and well. Properly managed employees tell others that work is fun, and word of mouth is the best way to attract high-quality workers. “The best recruitment tool you can have is if you create an environment that is rewarding and fun, and is not inhibiting people wanting to work.” 

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