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Effective restaurant owners and managers know workforce trends can have a huge impact on an establishment’s success. What might the future hold? Consider these five patterns noted in the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast and suggestions on how leaders might prepare:
Labor challenges are beginning to reemerge. As the nation’s economy strengthens and unemployment rates trend downward, restaurant operators are likely to see recruiting and retaining employees become difficult once again. A top-rated challenge in the pre-recession era, this labor issue was alleviated during the economic downturn. Restaurant employment growth is set to outpace overall employment growth for the 15th straight year in 2014, indicating that there will eventually be a gap between open positions and available candidates.
Modern recruiting methods can give businesses a leg up in the hunt for quality employees. Online job boards, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, and a company’s own website can generate interest among potential candidates. Likewise, automated tracking software enables employers to efficiently evaluate their applicant pool as hiring needs arise.
Employee turnover is on the rise. Similarly to relieving some employee recruitment challenges, the recession also affected employee turnover. As jobs became scarcer in the overall economy, people tended to stay longer in their existing positions. Now, turnover rates are beginning to rise again as the economy improves. Further complicating the matter is the fact that employee turnover in the restaurant industry is typically higher than the overall private sector because of the higher number of students and seasonal employees.
Putting a premium on keeping existing employees can ease the need to fill openings. Retention strategies might include taking a personal interest in workers, making sure they have the tools and knowledge to do their jobs well, encouraging communication in order to resolve issues quickly and recognizing performance to demonstrate that staff efforts are valued.
The prime restaurant labor pool is shrinking. Traditionally, 16- to 24- year-olds have been a prime demographic in the restaurant industry workforce, but that may change within the next decade because labor force participation by this age group is rapidly declining. Currently, about four in 10 restaurant industry employees are 16- to 24-year-olds, so operators will likely need to find new labor pool options in the years ahead.
Leaders who are able to “think outside the box” might discover unconventional but effective sources of talent. Marnie Swedberg, owner of Solutions Over Coffee Espresso Cafe and M&K Takeouts in Warroad, Minn., says she loves to hire people returning to the workforce after years of raising kids. “Talk about awesome in a restaurant! Multitasking mavens responsible for everybody and everything, compassionate, willing to work long and hard without big expectations or rewards … I mean, moms are the best.”
The workforce is getting older. The demographics of the U.S. population are changing, and so are the demographics of the labor force. While overall population growth is slowing, growth in the older adult demographic is speeding up, and those individuals are also staying in the workforce longer.
That growing 55-and-older segment might be the solution to many hiring dilemmas in the restaurant industry. Not only will the sheer number of potential employees in this age range be impressive, these seasoned workers often bring much to the table. As noted by Claire Raines and her co-authors of “Generations at Work,” baby boomers on the job typically are service-oriented, driven, good team players, eager to please, good at relationships and willing to go the extra mile.
Restaurant operators are ramping up training. More than half of restaurant operators plan to devote more resources to employee training this year, especially quickservice operators. The benefits are two-fold in that it can be a way to enhance productivity in the operations as well as a retention tool to develop the workforce internally.
While it’s true some employees might take the skills they develop to other establishments or industries, your investment in their education can promote confidence in their potential and commitment to long-term employment. Taking time to explore learning opportunities such as the National Restaurant Association’s ManageFirst Program can lead to better employee performance now and fewer turnover issues in the future.
This content was provided by NRA partner CareerBuilder.