Restaurants have been adding jobs for the past 24 consecutive months, according to the National Restaurant Association.1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food and beverage places have added 99,000 new jobs in January 2023 versus 26,000 in December 2022. Despite this large increase, nearly 90% of operators plan to hire additional employees during the next 6-to-12 months.2 At the same time, 57% of operators say they would be likely to lay off employees during the next 6-12 months if business conditions deteriorate and the U.S. economy goes into a recession.2
Even though the job market is loosening somewhat, hiring and retention remains challenging for the industry overall. Some operators are focusing on improving the working experience to drive recruitment and retention. At the same time operators are also streamlining operations to minimize their labor costs. By leveraging process improvements, operators can both improve the guest experience while removing some of the pain points that workers encounter as they perform their jobs.
An example of process improvement is cross training employees. When every employee can do every job in the restaurant, workers won’t get bored doing the same tasks every shift. “You get to be part of something,” states Joth Ricci, President and CEO of Dutch Bros Coffee, one of the fastest-growing concepts in the foodservice industry.3Similarly, Hal Lawlor, COO of Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill states: “There is opportunity in how we execute food production in the restaurants and making sure that we utilize people more cross-functionally in the kitchens when it comes to food production.”3 Also, last year, Checkers & Rally’s introduced its Restaurant of the Future concept, which included the launch of “FIT Kitchen,” a back-of-house redesign initiative that is seeking to foster a more comfortable work environment, easier order taking and more efficient service.3
Besides improving employee retention, process improvements benefit the business no matter the economic climate. As the past pandemic and tight labor market years have revealed, the restaurant industry knows firsthand how operational efficiency affects labor, business sustainability and profitability!