Is it finally time for big changes when it comes to restaurant pay? After years of restaurants testing the waters with no-tipping policies and, in many parts of the country, having to adapt to new minimum-wage requirements, the pandemic (and the unruly diners it has brought with it) may be providing an industry-wide time of reckoning. Many operators are finding that making adjustments to the compensation they offer – whether through their hourly wage, tipping policy, or health benefits – has become a must at a time when the industry is losing workers to other professions. The operators who have found ways to make it work are reporting some early success: According to a recent New York Times report, operators who have changed their compensation structure to ensure a steady living wage – or even simply offering other quality-of-life benefits like flexible schedules, lower health premiums and student debt-reduction programs in its place – are attracting staff. Providing income and scheduling stability stands to help restaurants retain their staff too (and minimize the high costs of employee turnover). Of course, it takes a strong business model to make it work financially, and operators are making such money-saving moves as streamlining menus and adding a service fee to checks to make that possible. As you consider your operation’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to employee compensation, where are there opportunities for you to improve your staff’s quality of life in meaningful ways? If raising wages isn’t an option, are there ways for you to make your existing positions a better long-term fit with your staff’s personal lives – and minimize your turnover costs in the process?
At a time when restaurant operators are scrambling to find staff like never before – and perhaps lowering standards to do so – Chipotle managed to attract nearly 24,000 applicants through an online job fair recently. This occurred a week after the brand announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour. It’s no coincidence: Restaurant workers are demanding greater financial stability. While not every restaurant has the resources to raise hourly wages, it’s still a good time to scrutinize labor expenses and address weak points. Even before the pandemic, the turnover rate in the hospitality sector was higher than the turnover rate in nearly all other sectors. According to The Restaurant Technology Guys even an $8-per-hour employee can end up costing a company around $3500 in direct and indirect turnover costs. The more you invest in recruiting and retention up front can minimize your costs in recovering after an employee leaves. Even if you’re unable to raise wages, taking steps to prevent payment inaccuracies and ensure employees can access their wages and tips right away can boost morale and retention. Restaurant Dive report says, 31 percent of financially insecure workers have quit a job because of a lack of financial wellness. On the flip side, more financially stable employees (87 percent) are likely to remain in their job in the next year, as opposed to workers who are financially unstable (58 percent). Every little thing you can do to promote financial stability can help you keep the people you hire.