side projects

Side projects boost engagement and retention for your restaurant staff

By Matt Parkin

In the dynamic world of restaurants, the quest to engage and retain employees goes beyond the confines of the job description. As the restaurant landscape evolves, so do the desires of job seekers and the expectations of employees. FindWRK’s Picture of the Hourly Workforce report reveals that exciting growth opportunities are a driving force for job seekers, while management stands as the top reason people leave their roles.

So how can we bring these two elements together? The answer to this conundrum lies in the power of side projects; a realm where creativity, skillsets, and personal growth intertwine to create a happy staff and a thriving workforce. Side projects are typically short-term opportunities that aren’t specified in an employee’s job description but are tasks where they can spend time learning new skills, building confidence, and helping the company grow. Let’s dive into how to engage and retain your restaurant staff using a strategy featuring side projects.

Elevate the experience with personalized development

The pursuit of growth is inherent to human nature, and job seekers are no exception. As leaders, the onus falls on us to provide avenues for this growth and development. Seeking out and tailoring these development opportunities beyond the standard job scope is a recipe for engaging and retaining your staff. By identifying and nurturing individual interests, you create an environment where employees are motivated to progress and can flourish. Leverage their potential to improve processes, design strategies, and reimagine training modules. In doing so, not only do you enhance efficiency and innovation, but you also send a powerful message to your team that their growth matters.

Discover hidden talents and employee skillsets

Restaurant staff have diverse skills that go far beyond those needed in their roles. Many employees juggle part-time work while pursuing studies or interests in different fields. Why not harness this treasure trove of talents? A business student could optimize workflow, an HR enthusiast might revamp training programs, and a marketing aficionado could craft a compelling marketing strategy. Someone interested in photography could help take pictures for the website or social media, while someone interested in floral or interior design could help give the restaurant a cosmetic facelift.

You never know what talents lay in wait with your staff and how they can use these skills to help grow your business. Empower your staff to step into their element, amplifying their impact on your business, and fostering a sense of purpose beyond their daily tasks.

Use fun and authenticity to engage through creativity

With the rise of Gen Z in the workforce, operators need to find innovative ways to engage their teams. Enter the realm of TikTok, where short-form videos and creative expression collide. Restaurants like Joe and Val’s No Frills and Chatime Markville have mastered this art, engaging staff, potential employees, and customers alike through playful content. Embrace the power of authenticity and enthusiasm, infuse a dose of fun, and foster an environment where individuality thrives with a creative approach to engagement.

Personalized side projects are the key to empowerment

While side projects hold immense potential, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The key lies in the personalization and tailoring projects to align with each employee’s passions, skills, and aspirations. Rather than imposing preconceived notions, initiate a dialogue with your team to create side projects that are passion projects.

Engage your staff in conversations to discover their interests and ambitions. Some may relish the opportunity to channel their creativity onto chalkboard signs, while others might embrace roles that expand beyond traditional boundaries. Embrace a culture of open communication and collaboration, ensuring that side projects are a reflection of their personal journeys and interests.

Moving forward

In the realm of restaurant management, harnessing the power of side projects goes beyond the tasks themselves; it’s a journey of empowerment and enrichment. By offering growth opportunities, tapping into hidden skillsets, infusing creativity, and making projects personal, you create an environment where engagement resonates with each member of your team.

In a landscape where excitement meets innovation, side projects provide an opportunity for growth potential, fuelling an environment where employees are not just contributors but partners, working to build your business alongside each other. Using side projects to engage your team, encourage progress, and celebrate successes will raise the bar all around for retention at your restaurant.

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