Staffing problems in the industry...

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by rahul7422, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    Hi everyone. Thinking of starting a business and am concerned about staffing as that seems to be by far the biggest problem in the restaurant business.

    Restaurant owners and managers and anyone else in the know: 

    How often are restaurants short-staffed? Will a 30-40 person restaurant be short-staffed due to no-show or high-volume on a daily basis or a weekly basis? 

    What do they typically do to circumvent the shortage? How big of a pain-point is it really?

    Do you use those staffing agencies and how efficient are they?
     
  2. justinwright85

    justinwright85

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    We stay short staffed.  Here in Richmond the market is over saturated with restaurants.  Not enough cooks to go around.  So usually me or my Sous chef pick up the slack.
     
  3. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    From what I have read lately, this is becoming a big problem everywhere in North America. Surprising to me given all the culinary schools out there. 

    From experience I can say that getting good kitchen help is a pain. They often don't have serious training or don't take the work seriously or think they have serious training but don't see the importance of working clean or labeling food or over/undercooking, not tasting the food they cook. I constantly consider starting a new restaurant but this is one of the big dilemmas I think about. 

    Out of 30-40 staff, I would say at least a couple of times a week you would have a problem, either with late arrivals or simply not showing up for one reason or another. Or calling in sick. Or having to leave early. 

    I don't have any answers but yes, it's a problem. 
     
  4. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    Scheaduling tools are great but how effective are they really? If my staffing model limits my employees at going over 30-hours per week due classifying them as FT and paying benifits etc., how do I circumvent people from picking up shifts that may have them go over 30-hours?

    And how inclined are workers to pick up shifts in an internal staff anyway? If its a 30-40 person staff and on average we are short-staffed 4 out of 7-days, are workers likely to pick up shift? 

    This is tough
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Today is your lucky day!  I will provide you with a mathematical formula to predict no shows:

    Find the cost of a single bdrm accommodation that is in reasonable distance from your restaurant

    ADD

    estimated costs for utilities/ insurance etc., for this place.

    ADD

    estimated costs for food, soap, etc

    IF THIS SUM

    -is greater than the projected monthly earnings of your employee, the odds of no-shows is 1 in 2

    -is equal or less than the projected monthly earnings of your employee, the odds of no-shows is 1 in 15

    You'd be surprised at how many employers I have worked for that won't acknowledge this simple formula.......
     
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  6. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    Interesting calculation. I'd imagine then most metropolitian area where cost of living is so high the ratio is actually 2 to 1 or 150% chance of no showing.

    As I see it, if you are an employee in NYC, cost of living is astronomical. Owners are still generally going to pay minimum wage to a dishwasher or a food-runner/busser so they are highly likely to no show. Even higher payed workers like line cooks and servers/bartenders will no show as 60k a year is still not enough to live in the city itself.

    No wonder why most restaurants fail in 5 years... and obamacare made it even more tough.
     
  7. grande

    grande

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    Volume you only seat what you have servers for, so that will hurt you more if you're short in the kitchen. I'd say in the kitchen i deal with 1-2 sick calls a week and have to replace someone about every month and a half. FOH has more people so they have to deal with a little more, BUT, they have more people to shuffle around and shorter shifts to cover.
    If you are short in the FOH, you can't do as many covers; less $$$. If you are short in the back, you won't have people to do the work; overtime equals more $$$. Chefs pick up some of the slack but you don't want to kill them.
    Eleven years in the business, never heard of a staffing agency. No way to certify employees, so how could you garauntee the staff you supplied?
    Doesn't mean there aren't any.
    Hours wise, server shifts are usually shorter, 3-6 hours. So four days plus one on call would be thirty hours. If you don't do on calls it still leaves you wiggle room to call people in. They have to go over 30 pretty regularly to qualify as full time, no? Not 100% on the new rules.
    Your kitchen staff you'll want full time. Unless you pay very generously people will need two or three jobs. You won't like having to work around other jobs schedules & it makes the holes in your schedule more awkward and harder to fill. If you can offer full time, they are more likely to make other people work around your schedule or only have one job. Remember that good cooks are very much in demand right now & can pretty much go where they want. Also remember your employees don't owe you anything, you pay them to do a job, you aren't doing them any favors. Of course I understand the bottom line. Of course! But there's a point where the "how much can I get out of my employees for how little" equation becomes alittle cynical and good staff has been around enough to know where the line is. Money is the motivating factor for servers, if the tips are good you can get away with a lot. With cooks, there's money, but other factors, from the heat to benefits to the type of food, that play into it too.
     
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  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Restaurants fail for a number of reasons, but mainly due to undercapitization,and poor  management (ie complete ignorance of the F & B industry)

    I'm in my second business now, first one sold at a profit after 8 yrs of operation.  I've come to realize that the best business model is to offer something unique so that you don't have to compete on price.  
     
  9. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    How have you dealt with staffing issues? How many people in your staff are FT vs. PT and were you able to minimize shortage?
     
  10. lagom

    lagom

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    Maybe a little off point here but let me offer some advice of I may be so bold. If you're not sure how staffing issues work in the restaurant/food business then you probly consider a different business.

    Believe me when I say I'm not being a wise a##, just being completly honest and blunt.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  11. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    ?

    Makes no sense. Im clearly very aware of staffing issues. I'm addressing the fact there are staffing issues and trying to find creative solutions. Please read critically when responding next time.
     
  12. lagom

    lagom

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    Are you currently or have you any expierence in the restaurant/food service business?
     
  13. foodpump

    foodpump

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    My first business was catering.  During the day we would do corporate lunches--a lot of them.  I had 3 f/t staff @ 40 hrs/week and 2 staff that worked regular hours 3 days a week, no evening work, no weekends.  While I paid the going rate, I was able to offer regular consistent hours, which attracts regular, consistent employees. Like the others who have written to you, I try to tailor the shifts to the employee, most of the considerations regard the care of family members.   Very few no-shows or surprises, and the ones that did happen were pretty serious family emergencies. 

    Offsite catering was different, there I had the luxury of getting 75% paid a minimum of 14 days before the event.  Only then did I do my ordering and "arranging" staff.  B.O.h staff was easy, since I could prep days before the event and was flexible with shifts--as long as the prep got done I had no issues.  Service staff were told about upcoming events and as soon as the deposit was paid, I would confirm their shifts.  Our servers were a bit older, in their 30's and 40's with regular day jobs and families at home.  Again, while I paid the going rate,  I had the bonus of "guaranteeing" them a shift @ x hrs and @ x $ two weeks before the event--and they loved it!  This was gravy money and the 2 weeks heads-up was a gift from the heavens.

    What I'm trying to say here is that most people would rather work for a dollar an hour less and have a regular shift  that they can base their lives/family life around, rather than be "on-call" for more money but have no idea what kind of a paycheck they can take to the bank.

    My current business is artisan chocolates and pastries.  One f/t and one p/t f.o.h.  staff.  Again, regular hours, evenings free, and in return I get no surprises or no-shows. I hire my b.o.h. staff in 3 mth stints, the first "season" is Oct-Dec., the second Feb-April, during the rest of the year I work solo, including deleveries.  There are only a half-dozen places in the Metro area that do hand tempering, figurine and bon-bon molding, hand dipping, and confectionary work, so I usually recruit from the Culinary schools, and it's usually the students they send me for 2 week stages.  Once again, I pay the going rate and offer regular hours, and I get no surprises. 
     
  14. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    You have been given some good advice.  I'll come in from a different angle.  I've found that the way you hire and the way you manage has a lot to do with the staffing problems, too.  The better you hire the better off you are.  Obviously you have to follow all the appropriate regulations, etc etc.  But you need to pay attention during interviews.  Are there any "red flags" present? Does the person have a good work history? References?  If you hire a kid that's worked in ten different restaurants in the last two years that's a big red flag.  I wouldn't flatly reject them as a hire but I'd want to know why they jump around so much.  It's a good idea to ask some probing tangential questions.  Things like:
    • What did you like about your last job?  What did you dislike?
    • How was your last boss/chef/manager?
    • Who was the worst boss/chef you've worked for?  What did they do that make them so bad?
    • Why are you a cook?
    Without digging into references these answers will still tell you a lot.  If every boss they ever had was a "jackass" then you will probably also be a jackass.  If they don't have anything good to say about any former boss that's probably because they were not good employees.  Likewise if they can cogently explain the good and bad things about their last chef it shows they kind of understand a kitchen to a degree.  As much as anything I think there's not a big gulf between how a person is as a person and  how they are as an employee.  There are exceptions of course but people are kind or vindictive, easy going or tense, basically honest or basically shifty, and these traits carry over into work.

    Obviously a smart person will try to anticipate where you're going with your questions and try to tell you what you want to hear. But you can often read between the lines and discern a lot about a person.

    Asking them why they're a cook is a good probing question and it might tell you if they're a good fit for you and you for them.  A good fit is very important to you and the employee!  If you're a fine dining restaurant and their experience is fast food you'll have to do a lot of work to bring them up to speed.  At the other end, a cook with experience in Micheline-starred restaurants might get bored really fast if you're staffing a truck stop.

    How you treat people will affect retention and performance, too.  I'm not telling you to kiss their asses, but by and large people don't like to work for petty tyrants if they can help it.  Do you yell and shout a lot?  Do you use racist or sexist language in your daily life?  How do you treat people?  A kitchen can often become very much like a family.  A cook will very often show up every day to support the other cooks she works with, and to avoid letting them down.  People will often go the extra mile for someone they like and respect.  Wages will be dictated by market conditions but it's not just money.  If you treat them with respect and dignity and display genuine concern for their welfare it will help a lot.

    If you're able to offer some flexibility it can also help.  As foodpump  points out most people's biggest concerns are their daily lives.  Don't intrude on their lives more than you have to.  Try to work with your employees on schedules that work for them, as much as you're able.  You're busy when you're busy, that is a fact.  But if you can arrange schedules to accommodate your staff they'll be a lot more likely to adhere to those schedules.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
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  15. kingfarvito

    kingfarvito

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    A lot of people have offered you advice from a chef level. I'll add some from a line cook level. I would never work for you. I would actively encourage other cooks not to work for you. Working cooks 30 hours a week in NYC isn't right. You would have to be paying $20 an hour for any of your cooks to be able to afford a bedroom in queens. And underworking them to avoid paying benefits is a real scumbag thing to do. Remember your employees can always jump ship and make a living elsewhere. Treat your people right man.
     
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  16. rahul7422

    rahul7422

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    scumbag thing to do? How do you have a staff of 30 people and have them all work F/T and pay benefits without being in the red? Do you know something about business that I don't know
     
  17. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I missed that crucial part of your OP!  I'm not judging you but look at the reality of the situation.  You may not be able to realistically pay benefits and still make the kind of profit you would like to make.  But look at it from the other side.  Will you work for someone, giving it your all and dedicating yourself to someone else's business for less money that it takes to survive?   Skilled cooks aren't case workers for the local charities- they work to make a living.  How hard would you work for someone dedicated to chiseling you out of insurance and a living wage?  Who's more likely to have your back when things get tough, a skilled cook making a fair wage or a kid working three restaurants like yours that refuse to pay a living wage?

    You certainly not will be an employer of choice, and you will not have good cooks clamoring to work for you.  Skilled line cooks are a valuable commodity.  In a town with few jobs you can probably get away with paying chicken feed but that probably won't fly in a market where there are other employment options.
     
  18. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    [rant]

    Let me note for the record that politically I'm pretty liberal and progressive.  But I think it's idiotic that employers have been burdened with providing health insurance for their employees.  If we as a society think that everyone should have healthcare- and everyone should IMO- then society as a whole should provide it.  Single payer, society shares the costs.  Let the government do things appropriate to government (eg roads, military, social services, etc) and let the private sector take care of creating jobs, producing goods and providing services.

    [/rant]
     
  19. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I'll throw in another two cents. How did you arrive at 30-40 people full time?  Since you have not actually opened the restaurant yet, you are guessing, no? The pie will not be divided so evenly when the restaurant is actually up and running. 

          You may estimate a need for that many now but when the restaurant is actually open you adjust to correct staffing according to when you do the most business. 

    If you know the number of seats you will have, estimated the busiest times and figured out what the average check will be, you should have some idea of projected income. 

          You will need some BOH staff- full time chef, a sous chef, some line cooks, dishwashers and prep cook or two. FOH will need a manager, several waitstaff, a busboy or two. 

    Some employee schedules will be adjusted accordingly. The chef needs to be there a lot. The prep cooks not as much. The busboy needs to be there for service times only, perhaps a little before and after for set up and side work. More waitstaff on busy nights, less on slower nights. Everything depends on the flow of your business. Split shifts may be appropriate for some days and some employees. Salary for a couple, hourly for most. 

         Some employees will only want to work part time because of other life concerns. Others will see this as their main source of employment. To worry about paying everyone full-time before you have even gotten started and do not yet know the needs of the business is missing the mark. 

         On the other side of the coin, I'd have to agree with the other posters who find a problem with your focus on low pay/no benefits. 
    Your use of the term "staffing model" makes it sound like you are operating from some theoretical business course designed by people with no real world experience. In brief, you are putting the cart before the horse as it were, trying to fit your soon to be real world business into a predetermined "staffing model" hole. 

    Assuming you want some one not yourself to be in charge, do you really expect them to work for less than 30 hours a week and be able to manage a restaurant? Do you really expect to get anyone to accept a job that doesn't ever offer full time? 

         I'll paraphrase Phaedrus. You want a skilled employee with years of experience, creativity, drive and talent who will provide first class work but you seem to want to find a way to offer third rate pay.  Those employees like the chef and manager will have to put in plenty of hours. You can put them on salary but if the rate of pay for actual hours worked doesn't add up to much, don't expect them to stick around. You will want those jobs to be filled by people who show great respect to your restaurant. Good pay and benefits is how you show great respect in return. Other support staff should also be paid a decent wage. Who doesn't have to pay rent and utilities? 

    As Foodpump pointed out, you take care of your employees and they will take care of you.
     
  20. kingfarvito

    kingfarvito

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    30 people? That's enough staff for a 200 seat place. I don't know of any where in the city I can sit and eat for less than $35. Turn it twice and that's 14k in dinner sales. I'm not saying you need to provide full health insurance, but sick days and vacation leave makes a huge difference. City wages at 30 hours a week is 450 a week BEFORE taxes. Can you cook. If you can would you do it for 1600 a month and no benefits? Don't ever ask anyone to do something you wouldn't do.
     
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