I found your recent article on staff very interesting and I would agree whole-heartedly. I have found that generally people who start out making excuses for why they aren’t able to do their job up to standards eventually stop making the excuses (but continue the behavior). But how does one find that ever-elusive replacement? I live in a small town surrounded by small towns. Clint Eastwood never comes here to eat. I have put out advertisements, used word of mouth, but our labor pool is more of a puddle. Slowly we are building a good team, but in the mean time, my family works a lot of hours. And just when I think, “we are building a good team” someone gets married and quits or goes away to college or decides to go into nursing instead of food service. What’s a restaurant owner to do?
Join the club. Whether you live in a small town or a major metropolis, finding good team members is difficult. Most waiters will claim that the problem exists since the profession only pays minimum wage. Even though tips amount for most of the professional waiter´s earnings and are substantial, many in the profession look at the "cash" as a bonus.
The real problem – many waiters look at their positions only as stepping-stones to a full time career in another field that may be perceived as more professional. New York City and Los Angeles restaurants are filled with actors, screenwriters and rock stars biding their time as waiters and restaurant employees until their big chance comes along. Since they don´t perceive their jobs as long term careers many don´t take the work seriously, making them poor team players.
Finding reliable, trainable, professional help in a small town is often more difficult than in other highly populated areas. Although Clint Eastwood used to eat in my restaurant, he had many of the great waiters in Carmel working in his. The labor pool in Carmel was also suffering from a drought and the numerous restaurant jobs available made it easy for waiters to make the rounds without much trouble.
Although word of mouth may work, and advertising in newspapers is always a source, online advertising, if available in your area is the new media for hiring. Craigslist is a very popular hiring site, is affordable and works well if they are in your area. Often the response is overwhelming.
However, if you are not in an area with online accessibility to job boards you may want to recruit from the High School in your area. Nothing is better than finding unblemished talent and training those you recruit. It gives you the ability to teach your new hires correct procedures and standards. Amazingly, high school students have a parental following that frequently adds to your bottom line.
If there is a college in your area, try to recruit from there, also. One thing that you may want to consider is to split shifts to make part time work throughout the week more appealing. Some mother´s would love to get out and work a few hours each day but cannot be away from home for an eight-hour period. If you divide your day parts to accommodate those looking for part time work this may also help fill the employee void.
Try advertising in the church bulletins in your area. The rate is usually less than $20.00 per week and the results work. The captive audience that you´ll reach knows many people and may help with your word of mouth process. You will find however, it may be difficult to fill the Sunday morning brunch shifts with anyone who applies from these ads.
Finally, and this is the worst option, you just have to accept the fact that the hours are long, the work grueling, and the strain on your family at times may be difficult. There will always be a core staff and you need to build your team around these people. Make the weekly schedule around them and fill in with part time help, high school students and new hires until you feel that the team is up to your standards. Don´t be hesitant to ask someone to work an extra shift and to fill in on occasion so you can take a little personal time.
Keep in mind when it comes to staffing, standards and procedures, the daily struggles are just part of the joy of the business.