Here Comes Summer! How Restaurants Can Prepare Staff for Their Busy Season
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Here Comes Summer! How Restaurants Can Prepare Staff for Their Busy Season

Here Comes Summer! How Restaurants Can Prepare Staff for Their Busy Season

While the weather in some parts of the country may not yet reflect it, we’ve officially reached spring. For restaurants, this means the ramp-up to their busiest season, which occurs between April and August when the warmer weather brings locals and tourists out and about.

Restaurant owners already struggling with the ongoing labor shortage may be nervous about the upcoming rush and how they can hire seasonal staff and keep existing employees happy. So how can restaurant managers prepare themselves for the seasonal rush and effectively capitalize on the increased foot traffic to their businesses? The key is in preparation, training, and communication.

Staff up

If there’s a significant increase in business expected, hiring additional staff will be critical to making it through the busiest months. This will also be helpful to retaining existing staff and keeping them happy. Overworked, exhausted employees aren’t likely to stick around.

When considering whom to hire, look for candidates with experience in the QSR industry or in other high-volume, fast-paced environments. They are more likely to adapt quickly to the demands of the summer busy season. Beyond the usual job posting sites and social media, also consider reaching into existing networks of past candidates and employees who may already have some training and knowledge of the restaurant’s processes. This can help expedite the onboarding process and make for a smoother transition into a busy work environment.

Focus on training—and retraining

With new seasonal staff, training is critical to getting them up to speed and ready to work in a busy restaurant. Lack of training is a major factor in employee churn within the first 90 days of employment, according to exit surveys with more than 10,000 restaurants across the country.

A comprehensive training program should include detailed information on job responsibilities, procedures, and policies, as well as education on the company’s mission, values, and culture. Managers must set clear expectations with new employees, including providing access to the training map that allows them to understand opportunities for advancement and the paths to progress through all positions. During this training process, managers should highlight the resources and skills needed to succeed within the organization, and communicate regularly to understand employee needs and feedback.

Consider also providing additional training for existing employees so they can be up-to-date on company policies and procedures, as well as best practices for efficiently taking orders, handling customer complaints, and working under pressure. Providing the additional training and support to both new and existing employees can help all team members feel comfortable and confident in their roles.

Communicate and provide ongoing support

When any business gets busy, communication can tend to fall by the wayside. Breakdowns in communication can lead to a disorganized working environment, stressed staff, and unhappy customers. Prioritizing communication can help avoid these headaches and keep both your business and employees thriving. 

Managers must clearly communicate expectations for staff performance. This includes speed, accuracy, and customer service, as well as updates on business performance and operational changes. To help engage employees further and increase productivity and happiness in the workplace, provide ongoing feedback and offer incentives or rewards for exceptional performance. This communication should be two-way. So make sure to also provide an open forum (or socialize an “open door policy”) to allow employees to share preferences, feedback, and concerns to build a positive working environment where all employees feel heard, valued, and appreciated. 

Additionally, providing ongoing support throughout the busy season will ensure that veteran staff and new employees are continually engaged and happy in the workplace. Set regular check-ins to see how they are feeling, and if there are any concerns that must be addressed—and take the steps necessary to address those concerns. Make sure employees are aware of all the resources available to them, including additional training, mentorship, and professional development opportunities. 

Invest in tools to help achieve these goals

Last, ensure that your staff has the necessary resources to handle an increase in business, including additional equipment and supplies. This may come with an investment in technologies that help streamline business operations and meet the needs of the busy season. A variety of recruitment tools exist to help restaurants find the right talent with the right experience for their business. Retention platforms can help improve employee-manager relationships, with communication tools to help managers regularly check in and connect with employees to build strong working relationships, identify areas of need within the restaurant, and ultimately create a positive working environment. 

Overall, the key to succeeding during the summer rush is making sure that the restaurant is prepared with extra staff, that the staff is well-trained, and that there is open, two-way communication between all in the restaurant to keep employees happy and the business working smoothly.

Rahkeem Morris is the founder and CEO of HourWork, a Boston-based talent recruitment and retention firm. Before graduating from Cornell University and Harvard Business School, he was a high school dropout who balanced multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet for his family. HourWork was born of his personal experience. Today he serves as Vice Chair of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and was appointed a member of the Future of Work Commission for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Published: May 4th, 2023

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