restaurant staffing

Restaurant staffing tips for the holidays

By Matt Parkin

Restaurant staffing can be a challenge at this time of year. With the supply chain slowdowns, rising menu prices, and the holidays fast approaching, you can’t afford to have your restaurant understaffed. The problem is that the labour market is tight and unemployment is low so there isn’t a huge pool of seasonal job seekers for your front and back-of-house roles.

Here are a few tips to make building your team easier as we head into the holiday season.

Hire for the long term

Many employees working during the holiday season also want to work during the rest of the year. Rather than hiring for strictly seasonal roles, strive to make them permanent positions with reduced hours in the new year. Students may be willing to work full-time hours over their school break, scaling back to five to 10 hours per week when classes resume.

This strategy helps reduce the cost and the time to hire and train new employees each holiday season if you can retain most of them throughout the year.

Explore new talent pools

If your existing career fairs, hiring signs, and job boards aren’t working, try tapping into new talent pools. Reaching out to local schools, non-profits, charities, or sports teams to gauge interest is a great way to meet people where they’re at instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Don’t be afraid to get creative. Consider having your current staff make engaging TikTok videos or social media posts about their roles during their shifts to generate interest and encourage others to come and work for you. 

Adjust scheduling practices

If you’re having trouble filling your shifts for the holidays, focus on cross-referencing candidate availability at the interview stage to maximize shift coverage, even before making hiring decisions. There is nothing worse than hiring three staff members and finding out they’re all unavailable on the same day.

Consider a staffing strategy to incentivize increased availability and prioritize preferred shift times for those with the most flexibility. This will keep them happy and motivated and will reduce the time it takes you to fill out the schedule. 

Increase compensation

With today’s cost of living and high inflation rates, money talks. Consider increasing your wages for holiday season staffing to encourage your staff to take more shifts. This will help reduce headaches with scheduling and save you time and money when it comes to retention.

It might mean a few extra hundred dollars wages, but if that’s surpassed by your uptick in sales, it may be worth it. Another way to think of it is assigning a monetary value to your time. If increasing your hourly wages saves you tens of hours of headaches with recruiting and scheduling, that savings may outweigh any additional monetary expenses.

RELATED: Higher wages may help address the foodservice labour shortage

Plan ahead

Just like you, your employees have lives outside of work. Scheduling shifts on a week-to-week basis can be frustrating for those trying to make social plans with family and friends. Rather than a weekly schedule, consider scheduling the entire season at once so your employees can plan accordingly. Giving more notice can help reduce no-shows and shift juggling, saving you from scrambling at the last minute.

The holidays can be hectic, but they can also be the most memorable time of the year. Hope these strategies help your restaurant and your staff thrive this holiday season.

Matt Parkin is the Business Development Lead at FindWRK. He helps employers quickly connect with hourly employees without needing a job posting.