Working in a restaurant or bar can be pretty tough. It’s tiresome, stressful, fast-paced and often thankless. There are people, however, who thrive in this environment. They love to talk to strangers about how their day is going and what happened at the Steeler game last night. They’re great salespeople – somehow convincing even the fullest customers that they should pick up a dessert to go. They not only do their own work, but also help their fellow coworkers with overflow. The back of house staff is preparing the food quickly and with organized efficiency. They get all of the meals out correctly, even when they’re backed up. The management works with the staff to keep operations smooth, even if it means doing some of the night’s dirty work. They smile to the customers through the toughest nights, regardless of fatigue and exhaustion. These employees are your establishment’s bread and butter (is this a pun? If so, it was intended). They keep operations smooth and keep customers coming back as regulars. You don’t just want healthy, hard-working people – you need them to keep your restaurant from needlessly bleeding out cash.

Good Help is Hard To Find

Good Help is Hard To Find

Finding and keeping these employees is one of the toughest parts of the industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee turnover is more than twice as frequent in restaurants and bars than it is in any other industry. If the employee is working at minimum wage, it costs almost ⅓ of their yearly salary to replace them. That’s a lot of money every time one of those bad apples you hired needs to go. Wouldn’t it be better to stick good people into the server/bartender/manager positions from the get-go? Absolutely, but it’s just not that simple. The labor pool in Southwestern Pa, for example, is diminishing as the increasing demand for educated, entry-level workers increases. Pittsburgh has a lot of young people flocking in, but they’re here to eat. They’re not trying to work in the restaurant industry, but instead thrive on the culture of the city. Their income is less focused on survival or savings and is instead spent on experience (which includes dining).

Attracting Employees

Attracting Employees

Competition is fierce for the average Pittsburgh restaurant. The increasing number of restaurants and foodservice outlets in the area shrinks the number of potential candidates for your own establishment. What, then, can you do to get the right people coming up to your storefront for a job? You definitely need to have experienced people in your front of house and back of house staff. To do this, you need to understand their concerns. What sort of wage can I expect working at this restaurant/bar? Do I receive any benefits? Are the working conditions well suited for my personality, interests and health? As much as you want to maximize profits, give the experienced personnel what they desire and you should see profits rise. The addition of this new employee would help make your establishment that much better. The pool of inexperienced restaurant staff is significantly higher, but also riskier. If you choose to hire a newbie, you’ll have to spend the time and money to train them in foodservice. Make sure you choose wisely when picking up an inexperienced worker. They should meet basic criteria that you could judge immediately from the interview (resumes can sometimes be misleading), including communications skills and teamwork. Carefully observe their work ethic and ability to function in the restaurant environment. Cut your losses as soon as possible if the new hire isn’t really working out. Do what you know is best for your establishment! Try using your own current employees as a resource. Incentivize them with a bonus if they bring a friend onto the team who lasts in the business for more than 90 days (typical dropout window).

Keeping The Best of Them Around

Keeping The Best of Them Around

If you believe that your new, experienced hire could be an influential member of the team, show them you’re interested in having them for the long haul. When managing these folks, it’s important that the employee is motivated to provide exceptional service. The quality of the restaurant experience is decided by the guest, so your front of house staff should not only be well-trained but also tuned into this fact. Give the best of them an inch and see what you get in return. The money you save in the long run from giving your experienced bartender health benefits should outweigh the costs of losing that employee. It’s a bit of a balancing game. Along the same lines, you want to try and prevent the spread of dissent, and keep morale up so that the good employees see no reason to leave. Some potential strategies include performance bonuses, better work schedules for your seasoned employees, more generous employee meals, etc. Simple signs of appreciation go a long way as well! Don’t forget your courtesies, like “Thank You” and “Great Job.” The more they feel like they’re putting in good work, the more motivated they’ll be to work harder and at a higher level.  Get down and dirty with the rest of them every once in awhile. Show the kitchen staff that you know how to cook a mean steak and talk shop. Show the front of house employees how the job is done. This shows all of your employees what the best practices may be, and that you’re not just some ominous figurehead who just drops in from time to time.