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How can the restaurant industry survive the Great Resignation

How can the restaurant industry survive the Great Resignation

Restaurants can overcome the challenges by recruiting and retaining the right talent with clear and rewarding career pathways as it is more important than ever to keep hold of the good workers and not settle for second best

Labour shortages are causing a crisis in the hospitality sector. While consumer demand has returned to restaurants, hotels, pubs and cafes, owners are now struggling to recover from the pandemic because they are unable to recruit and retain enough staff.

Recruitment is not a new issue for the restaurant industry, but Brexit and COVID have deepened a problem that has been evolving for years. The restaurant industry has been weakened as a result of closures and restricted trading for nearly two years, causing many to leave the sector to find careers elsewhere.

According to UKHospitality, a staggering 600,000 jobs were lost, and 12,000 businesses closed as a result of the pandemic in 2020 alone, so understanding and responding to employees’ behaviours and expectations will be essential if we are to survive this recruitment crisis. And with the economy appearing to bounce back, it is clear that the hospitality sector will play a pivotal role in its recovery.

I believe restaurants can overcome these challenges by recruiting and retaining the right talent with clear and rewarding career pathways. Here are my five tips on employee retention and why it is more important than ever to keep hold of the good workers and not settle for second best.

1. Shifting negative perceptions
By and large, a career in hospitality is still perceived negatively. If we are to achieve economic recovery in the UK the industry must address these poor and incorrect slants, particularly among young people starting their careers in restaurants. Some roles do entail long hours and demanding workloads, but they can also be rewarding in equal measure, such as teamwork, employee perks, tips and bonuses and a secure industry. With COVID intensifying the skills and jobs crisis among young people, restaurants can offer diverse and increasingly desirable skillsets which can mean an attractive, lifelong career path for many.

2. Employee retention
Restaurants are renowned for having high staff turnover and to date have struggled to find and keep good employees. Being able to retain them is critical to a brand’s success, otherwise, it is difficult to operate at a high level and remain profitable. Restaurants need to foster employee retention and keep their best employees by creating a high-performing team that is productive, engaged, and connected with the workplace.

Depending on the size of your business, you can do this in a number of ways, including promoting internally and providing training opportunities to grow. Strong performers will want to know they have a career path, not just a job, so building a collaborative, positive work environment with clear expectations and goals, will be a recipe for successful employee engagement and retention.

3. Understanding the future workforce
With the average restaurant worker just 29 years old, it is important for owners to understand how to effectively manage their employees across different generations so they can streamline their operations and ensure they create great working environments. Understanding the future workforce is pivotal to the success of the restaurant industry, and if properly managed they will see their restaurant jobs as long-term opportunities rather than a stopgap to other careers.

Millennials are now transitioning into leadership roles in the restaurant industry as they grow in their careers, whereas Gen Zers are just entering the workplace and have a strong sense of community, feel empowered to perform at higher levels and see themselves working in the sector for the long term.

4. Adapting roles to employees’ ethics and priorities
When it comes to recruiting new employees, businesses should match the candidate’s values with those of the business. By listening and adapting to your employees’ needs and expectations, you will then be able to recognise how roles fit with candidates’ ethics and priorities. Some restaurant brands are now setting up their own development and training schemes and adapting roles to fit around candidates’ strengths as a shortage of skills hinders recruitment plans.

We have identified that the staff we are now recruiting at Döner Shack restaurants need a different approach to learning and development, particularly with the growing use of technology and speed of information so easily accessible. For example, we know that Gen Zers require an alternative style to studying and training which is more practical and interactive through technology and videos. As a brand, we have a real emphasis on workplace culture and have created a space for our employees to grow and progress quickly. This is a big motivation for us and our employees when recruiting for our restaurant sites in the UK.

5. Positive workplace culture
Creating a positive workplace culture in your restaurant is essential as it will not only improve teamwork, raise morale and increase productivity and efficiency, but it will also enable growth and development. The culture of any business comes from the top down, so it is key that restaurant owners model the behaviour and approach to work that they would expect from their team and agree on the tone from the outset. A leader will lead by example, so values need to be displayed consistently. While positivity and enthusiasm are infectious, so is negativity and indifference.

There is a big job ahead to rebuild the workforce and for people to regain their confidence in the hospitality industry, especially for those who may have been treated badly in the past and lost faith in the sector. Across all types of restaurants – fast food, fast-casual or fine dining – owners are now having to take a different approach when it comes to recruiting their staff and retaining them by thinking about the value they hold, as well as investing in them and their futures. The restaurant franchise sector must re-energise passion into jobs again and show potential staff that hospitality is a great career choice and can be a fun and rewarding job.

The author
Sanjeev Sanghera is the co-founder and managing director of Döner Haus and Döner Shack. With over 25 years of experience, Sanjeev is a leading restaurant entrepreneur with a business that is growing internationally, including in North America, Europe and the Middle East.

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