Is it really hard to find good employees on the Seacoast? Well, it can certainly feel that way. It seems like every business sign on Rt1 references help wanted, especially in the hospitality arena. In the online world, there are 20-40 restaurant postings per day in the help wanted of NH Craigslist. I would call this a seller’s market for job hunters, lots of folks hiring with a very limited supply.
I have spoken to other restaurant owners and they often feel the pressure from the job market. Pay is going up and employees are often jumping ship for better (albeit potentially short term gigs). I also hear that often managers/owners are not willing to hold underperforming employees accountable for the fear of losing them without a viable replacement.
I consider labor to be just one of the many challenges in this industry especially as an independent restaurant. Over the last few months at Native, we have started to make some changes that are really helping our staffing and overall operation:
1. POSITIVE ATTITUDE>EXPERIENCE – We have distilled our job descriptions to 3 key requirements: Respect, Professional, and Dependable. Ultimately, you can teach a person with the right attitude how to perform customer service, operate our espresso machine, or even prep/cook in the kitchen. It can be much more challenging to teach an experienced chef to be an effective leader or communicator. Investing in your employees is the recipe for success, teaching new employees valuable skills, including them in decision making, and providing a development plan.
2. CROSS TRAINING – Versatility is an incredible asset at a restaurant. We love to hire folks who have diverse experience. The chef who can work the line but also shares a passion for baking and pastries. The barista who has also worked in a deli and shares a passion for food. In terms of training, our kitchen staff often attends our coffee classes. Our FOH staff is spending more time in the kitchen and even starting to work shifts on the line. Not only does this breakdown inevitable communication barriers between the FOH & BOH, but it builds a much more VERSATILE and STRONG team. The other result is a much more efficient and productive team, we can execute with a smaller labor force which allows for higher pay and better tips.
3. CULTURE – Create a place that people WANT to work at. This is really more than just the look and feel of the restaurant. It is about treating your employees like family, understanding and supporting their needs, and nourishing them with tasty food and drinks. Supporting their development and growth, celebrating success and learning from failure. This process can be time consuming and challenging, but it is absolutely critical to improve the longevity of your staff. As an owner, I can honestly say that it isn’t the owner or concept that will make us successful, it ultimately comes down to the team. My favorite part of business is building a high performing team and watching them execute, incredibly rewarding and ultimately a testament to the importance of a STRONG team.
Although the job market creates challenges for the business owner it also creates opportunity. To improve the way we hire, train, and compensate. We can hopefully pay employees a living wage and they can reward the business owner with increased productivity and loyalty. Labor can certainly feel like a constraint to running a healthy and profitable business, but like any other challenge, it is an incredible opportunity to improve your operation by changing your tactics and strategy.
PS- We are still looking for Rock Stars to join our team!!!