The Trouble with Kitchen Labor and How to Fix It
It’s lunch time and sizable crowds of hungry customers are marching towards your doors looking to satisfy their afternoon craving. Normally, a staff of 4-5 people would be able to handle the surge, but 1 has called out sick and 2 are recent recruits still in training. What do you do?
First, breathe, and know you’re not alone. Labor struggles have always challenged the restaurant’s ability to turn a profit and it appears to be even more challenging over the next 10 years -- especially for the kitchen staff. From the looming crisis of Gen Z to competition from ridesharing and delivery apps, the labor pool is increasingly getting more competitive. Contradictory, it’s the delivery apps that are compounding the issue even further, some restaurants are forced to turn away business just to keep up with demand.
How to thrive
The restaurant business is booming, yet the once easy-to-recruit labor is declining. It’s no doubt technology has changed the game. To succeed in the post-digital era, operators must adapt to this change by thinking harder about company culture, efficiencies, and process.
Invest in your people
Create an environment of learning and growth. Invest the time in young chefs to improve techniques and recipes that will help them develop professionally so that they receive the on-the-job experience necessary to advance their careers. This however, doesn’t mean you have to overpay, just stay competitive and focus on company culture.
Cross-train the team
Cross training increase efficiency, develops empathy and provides team building opportunities at the organizational level. This not only ensures that you have a workforce who can multitask but also lead to a growth of professional capabilities of the staff. A fully cross-trained team becomes more agile and will operate as a single unit, creating a sense of ownership within the organization.
Invest in Smart(er) Equipment and Technology
Measure and monitor every process, implement solutions to shave seconds (if not minutes) for time consuming tasks. Use data, not intuition, to drive efficiency in your kitchen. Best to use integrated POS/KDS systems and modern software to deliver the reports and the user experience necessary for modern kitchens.
Create a culture of data-driven decisions
Working in a restaurant is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right amount of investment in people and technology, operating a restaurant can be rewarding and profitable. There are many examples of kitchens that get it right, but you don’t need exorbitant budgets. Start with company culture and improve incrementally. When a restaurant kitchen focuses on people, process, and data the end result is a well oiled machine for turning over profits.