The food industry has historically suffered from a high degree of turnover. Unfortunately, that places a significant upper bound on organizational growth and often results in underperforming sales. The labor market is tight right now. It's becoming increasingly difficult for restaurants and food companies to remain competitive in the search for top talent.
So what can be done to improve retention, incentivize innovation and encourage careering within the food industry? According to FastCasual, which recently hosted a webinar lecture, "Hot or Not: 2015 Employer Trends" given by Ryan Glushkoff, Director of Product Marketing for PeopleMatter, and Victor Fernandez, Executive Director of Insights and Knowledge for TDn2K, much.
Companies need to change their recruiting practices.
In a competitive job market, it's not advisable for food companies and restaurants to sit back and passively screen applicants. If you want to attract top talent, you need to go out and find it.
Glushkoff and Fernandez recommended that companies adopt a "two-pronged" approach to hiring, augmented by the power of social media platforms. Companies need to both actively seek prospective applicants— using hiring sites like LinkedIn— and also cultivate interest in working in the food services industry, with general outreach content posted on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other general-topic platforms.
They also need to optimize their online application processes for mobile use.
FastCasual reported that 40 percent of job application site users will fail to complete the application process if they encounter technical difficulties while using a mobile site. Given the accelerating shift away from using desktop and laptop computers — and toward using smartphones and tablet devices— when accessing websites, food companies need to take a hard look at their mobile site support and continually test the functionality of their online applications.
We need better, smarter training programs.
If high turnover results in poor unit performance, then restaurants, in particular, need to do a better job of brand training. Even large chains need to stop viewing their service line employees as dispensable or interchangeable cogs, and start treating them as potential brand ambassadors.
To that end, Fernandez recommended, employers should improve both the quality and the length of training. Instead of "training" comprising a few shadow shifts, views of a couple old, underproduced safety videos and a quick menu quiz, restaurants should include robust brand orientation and teambuilding modules to improve employee engagement and aid retention.
Restaurants rely on their front-of-house associates to be cheerleaders for the brand; if they don't believe in the cuisine and the dining experience, one cannot possibly expect them to instill enthusiasm in their dining customers. By contrast, an enthusiastic server, host, or service manager will look for ways to actively manage the dining experience and keep his or her customers coming back.
Similarly, back-of-house associates who aren't engaged will take less care in the preparation and presentation of the food. They need to be excited about the brand, too. They need to understand that their contributions to the dining experience don't begin and end on the line, but extend to the front of the house and to the overall buzz about the brand. A haphazardly plated dish, an overcooked entree, or a dirty piece of silverware can mean the difference between a repeat customer who talks up the brand on social media, and a dissatisfied diner who actively discourages his or her peers from patronage.
Use technology to improve workflow and employee communication.
This is especially true of the restaurant environment, where a lot is happening at once. A service can quickly descend into a chaotic quagmire if the front-of-house and back-of-house players aren't in sync.
Wireless headsets, tablet-based point of sale systems, table-based touch screen menus and other innovations are already being used by many restaurateurs to improve efficiency and iron out the kinks in service. Employers should continue to look for technology companies to continue providing smart, mobile solutions for improving the dining experience.
Similarly, food manufacturers and food producers need to make sure that associates in the plant or hands in the field can efficiently communicate over distance and over the noise of machinery, so that processes will be smooth and uninterrupted. Wireless and tablet-based technologies offer promising ways of improving the workflow of harvests and food product manufacturing.
And in the food science lab, or on the marketing side, investment in better data tracking and analysis products could spur food innovation. In the food industry today, there's really no such thing as having too much tech capability.