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  • Writer's pictureCalla Norman

How to Survive the Restaurant Labor Shortage Crisis of 2022

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

hand holding a burger from Forking Vegan in Austin Texas, Honeycomb alum restaurant

If you own a restaurant right now, you might have seen a few tumbleweeds blow through your dining room like an old Western film and wondered, “where are my employees?” Yes, you’re dealing with the current restaurant labor shortage that’s plaguing restaurant owners across the country. But what can be done about it?

Despite what you might be seeing, the restaurant industry has actually been in a state of employment growth, according to the National Restaurant Association. Yes, it is slower than it was in 2021, and nowhere near the levels of how it was before 2020, but there are slowly jobs being added to the restaurant labor pool. However, what’s happening right now is that unfilled positions are exceeding actual total hires by 500,000. So basically, there are a lot of open positions in the restaurant industry, but for some reason people aren’t filling them!

Read on for some tips on how to find, hire, and retain employees for your restaurant.

Finding and hiring employees for your restaurant

Right now, it’s even more important to find top talent, and to make sure you’re hiring the right people for your restaurant. However, the days of putting up a “Now Hiring” sign and hoping for the best are disappearing. Actually - on that note, don’t ever put “help wanted” or “now hiring” up on your job postings. Instead, try “Accepting applications now,” or “In need of help to meet increasing demand.” This kind of messaging portrays to the job seeker that your business is doing well, and would be a lucrative place for them to work - not that you’re desperately seeking employees.

These days, to find restaurant employees, you have to go online. Check out job boards like Indeed or food industry specific ones like Good Food Jobs and Seasoned and post job listings on them. Job seekers are looking for transparency - be upfront about the wages offered, benefits, job description, all the important stuff.

With that in mind, in your job description make sure you’re also hitting the right notes of what’s going to resonate with potential employees. Sure, the money is important, but today employees are also looking for fulfillment, experience, and community out of their jobs beyond just the paycheck. Make sure that your restaurant’s culture comes across clearly.

Some restaurants are offering perks for people to come into interviews - that way there will be less no-shows and less of your time wasted. In some cases, it’s a cash incentive, and in others it's a free meal or something like that.

Retaining restaurant employees

Once you’ve hired an all-star team of employees, you need to make sure you’re keeping them happy. Restaurant turnover is a fact of life, but you can take measures to keep your employees for as long as you can by being strategic with your retention measures.

To start with the obvious, make sure there is a clear and transparent schedule for pay increases and incentives. This will keep employees from feeling like they’re not being valued, and will motivate them to work harder.

An often-overlooked reason why employee turnover is so great in the restaurant industry is due to inadequate training. Make sure you have a solid onboarding program - whether it’s a stage period (make sure it’s paid!), a week of training (paid!!), and any other sort of industry certification they might need like ServSafe training (paid!!!). In addition, make sure that whatever hierarchy or chain of communication you have in your restaurant’s team is made clear to new hires so they know who to turn to if they have questions.

Finally, another way of retaining your employees is offering benefits. Now, you might balk at this, but there are actually several relatively inexpensive ways that restaurants can offer benefits to their employees. Look into the Oyster Sunday Benefits Program. It allows employees to access discounts on preventative care such as tele-therapy or online prescriptions and supplements, discounts on childcare, and (super importantly) access to discounts on restaurant gear like quality shoes, knives, and apparel.

Wondering if this might be beyond your restaurant’s budget?

One way you might consider funding these moves to hire your employees and weather the labor shortage is by factoring it into your restaurant’s growth plan. If you’ve got some big moves planned for your restaurant like expanding it, opening another location, or something else you’ve got in mind, try including the cost of onboarding new hires and retaining them in those calculations.

Restaurants across the country have been growing with the help of community investors on Honeycomb Credit. Honeycomb allows you to take a loan out for your restaurant’s growth using investments from your customers, community, and family and friends! Restaurants like Frisco’s Chicken in Pennsylvania have used a portion of their crowdfunding goals with Honeycomb to train and onboard employees.

You’ve got the tools you need to hire the best talent out there

Those tools are your restaurant’s culture and brand! It’s just a matter of communicating how amazing it is to work at your restaurant to the public so that you can attract the right talent, and keep them. If hiring employees is part of your growth plan for your restaurant, be sure to look into how you can sustainably fund that endeavor - find out more about Honeycomb Credit small business loans by filling out the form below!

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