The world has suffered greatly over the past two years. From the COVID-19 pandemic to tense foreign affairs, families, communities and industries across the globe are reeling as we emerge from prevailing crisis.
In the food and beverage industry specifically, bar and restaurant owners have navigated shutdowns that, in some cases, completely halted business.
Exercising creativity and business prowess, owners have implemented new policies and procedures designed to promote the health and safety of employees and customers, while also pivoting business models.
Moving from dine-in to take out, from packing establishments with customers to encouraging social distancing and from curating new menus to navigating supply chain shortages, bar and restaurant owners and operators have given their all to support the brands they represent.
Now, as food and beverage concepts begin to get back on their feet, a new crisis has emerged: a global labor shortage. Though the specific driving factor behind the labor shortage is unclear, it has forced bar and restaurant owners to, once again, reevaluate their business model, as well as their approach to recruitment and employee retention.
In the United States alone, Valor Hospitality Partners currently represents 22 hotel properties, 17 of which have dedicated food and beverage concepts. Drawing inspiration from global partners and a dedicated food and beverage team, our team at Valor has identified key learnings while navigating the labor shortage.
Employees Are Holding the Cards
A departure from employment history, the current employment landscape shows that candidates are largely in control throughout the recruitment process, and even into the role itself. As food and beverage concepts nationwide scramble to find qualified candidates to fill open roles, the market has shifted from employers sifting through a pool of qualified candidates to one dictated by the candidates themselves.
This trend has led to a rise in labor costs, and, ultimately, an increase in cost for the consumer as well. Coupled with a disruption in the global supply chain, bars and restaurants are navigating operating costs at a record high.
Alongside employees seeking higher wages, many bars and restaurants are demanding longer working hours and greater crossover in responsibilities. In many cases, these circumstances are inspiring a departure from the hospitality industry as a whole, as many roles are reliant on gratuities to supplement income.
So how does a restaurant concept attract top talent? It’s all in how you sell it.
Recruitment Strategies Have Changed
With employees in charge, bars and restaurants have been tasked with expanding their recruitment strategies. In the current landscape, there are several digital tools available to assist with recruitment efforts. From apps to help fill short-term needs to a wealth of online job boards, the difference between one restaurant and another can boil down to details as minute as the look of the ad itself.
Be thorough with your job descriptions. Be positive with what your specific brand can offer candidates. Allocate advertising dollars to help maximize your reach. These practices (and more) can help set one concept apart from another. Additionally, partnering with professional recruiters, or even bringing professionals in-house, is a great way to maximize efforts and attract top talent in a given area.
Despite the current landscape being employee-driven, hiring teams should remain mindful of the qualities that are important to look out for in each individual role. For those entering the hospitality industry, Valor seeks candidates who are career-minded and eager to learn and grow. For senior-level roles, Valor seeks candidates who are tenacious, loyal and team-driven.
Ultimately, thorough recruitment efforts may drive new hires, but creating and maintaining a positive culture is paramount to retaining high quality talent.
Differentiating Your Business
Valor Hospitality has the unique ability to oversee the creation of bar and restaurant concepts, requesting a seat at the table during even the earliest stages of development. This leads to ensuring the concept itself is a perfect fit for each respective property. Our concepts have the “cool” factor, and we know it.
Thoughtfully designed concepts are a differentiator for Valor properties, which often positively influence recruitment efforts. Identifying the unique qualities of any bar or restaurant and bringing that differentiator to the forefront will help attract talent best suited for any open role.
Highlight any perks that accompany your establishment, giving a “why” for candidates who are inundated with options. Do you offer competitive benefits? Is the restaurant itself a celebrity hotspot? Are the operating hours noteworthy? Is there opportunity for additional training or career advancement?
While establishment-specific distinctions are important to highlight, the hospitality industry as a whole has a wide range of positive qualities that have been overshadowed by recent events.
Differentiating Your Industry
A career in hospitality offers endless opportunities for professional growth. On a granular level, front–of-house roles like hosting, serving or bartending help develop customer service and problem-solving skills in a fast-paced setting, which serve as a jumping off point for those seeking expanded careers in hospitality or similar industries.
Opportunities in a culinary career are vast, with many aspiring chefs learning the trade from a young age and excelling into careers as an executive chef or director of food and beverage. For those seeking a career in leadership, the hospitality industry offers a range of advancement options in individual restaurant concepts, hospitality group leadership and even entrepreneurship and ownership.
Ultimately, a career in the food and beverage industry is a career in a skilled trade, arming employees with tools and resources to excel throughout their entire professional life.
The Importance of Company Culture
Perhaps the most important pillar of business is a healthy company culture. In recent months, burnout has been rampant across the globe, and businesses have been tasked with combating feelings of burnout while also navigating labor shortages.
A pillar of Valor’s success throughout the pandemic and beyond is rooted in its commitment to culture. Across departments, dynamic leadership lays the groundwork for the health of all teams. In food and beverage specifically, leadership is the foundation for a positive culture.
Beginning with a dedicated corporate team, Valor builds strong leadership structures into each of its individual hotel and restaurant concepts. From the CEO to the restaurant floor, our leaders are expected to integrate with their teams, lead by example and always remain open to employee feedback.
Employee engagement is another important focus for Valor’s food and beverage teams. Are the employees happy? Do they have everything they need? Do they feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns? Are their personal and professional goals being met?
Approaching relationships between employees and leadership as mutually beneficial will help promote a positive culture and, ultimately, help retain quality employees.
Tackling Turnover During Crisis
Once quality employees are on the roster, how do bars and restaurants prevent turnover? Beyond company culture, that answer lies in training and development.
Providing quality training reemphasizes a company’s commitment to its people. Whether through robust programs to help employees become experts in a specific role or by providing opportunities for team members to explore career advancement, offering thorough training and development initiatives incentivizes employees to remain on the team.
Valor recently launched its Future Leaders program in the United States, offering an opportunity for continuing education and leadership training across company roles. For example, if a food and beverage director is interested in learning about operations or revenue management, Valor provides an 18-month program to help employees hit that goal. Already seeing success throughout Valor’s U.K. portfolio, this program will continue to be rolled out throughout 2022 and beyond.
Ultimately, investing in training and development not only promotes a specific establishment, but the health of the hospitality industry as a whole.
Remembering the Customer
Hospitality is, at its core, a people business. One of the most challenging aspects of the labor shortage is the impact the crisis has had on quality customer service. In an attempt to manage expectations, signage warning consumers about reduced staff, increased pricing and slower service are appearing in storefronts nationwide.
With reduced staff across the board, hoteliers and restaurateurs are tasked with maintaining standards of service while also navigating an unprecedented labor and supply chain crisis. With customer service top of mind, engagement remains a priority at all levels.
This means leadership needs to be on the floor, communicating with customers and owning tasks outside their job description. Customer-facing roles require expanded training to navigate challenging situations. The culinary team needs to communicate thoroughly and effectively to ensure food service doesn’t waver.
Overcoming most labor shortage challenges are rooted in engagement. Customers need engagement to feel served, employees need engagement to feel supported and candidates need engagement to feel prioritized.
By integrating initiatives to develop, engage and prioritize employees, the hospitality industry as a whole is sure to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.