News & Events

‘Tis the Season to be Staffing

By: Joe Kelly

You’ve just made it through the summer, football season is underway and the first signs of fall are peeking through – a great time to take a quick breather, right? Not so fast. The next six weeks is a critical time that you need to focus on preparing your staff and restaurant for the busy holiday rush ahead.

The holidays are always a challenging time for restaurants. Yes, traffic is up, parties are on and business is great. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s will be, by far, the busiest of the entire year for most restaurants. A plan of action around staffing in the upcoming weeks is critical to ensure a positive experience for all of your guests and team this holiday season. By taking action now, you can ensure your success in the holiday season and make the most of this abundant time of year.  

Have solid leadership in place.

That’s right – start at the top. This is the first and most critical part of the planning process. Do you currently have the right leadership in place at your restaurant? Do they know your business? Can they handle the stress of a super busy meal period? Can they motivate, train and manage the staff? If the answer to all these questions is yes, that’s great – keep moving. If the answer is no, address this issue immediately. It’s not too late to fill a gap or make a change – leadership can make or break you this holiday season.

This is easier said than done as available talent continues to fall short of market demand. In addition to your usual recruiting tactics, you may consider outside resources to help deliver experienced candidates to fill these roles. Investing in the right resources at the right time, will result in long-term benefits that far outweigh the upfront costs.

Strategically hire-up for the season.

Key word – strategically. It is a good idea to hire more staff to prepare for the holiday season. Review your current team and determine where skill or availability gaps exist. Review previous years’ performance and where you may have needed more bench strength on the team. Focus on filling these positions first. Then consider lining up subordinate managers and key employees for both front and back of the house that will enable you to relieve the stress created by unexpected schedule shifts and no-shows, allow holiday/vacation time for your team and manage periods of extreme overtime.

Provide time to train.

Author and successful businessman Robert Kiyosaki said, “Confidence comes from discipline and training.” Set your restaurant up for success by building confidence in your team. The more confident your team, the better prepared they are to handle challenge and provide an exceptional dining experience for your guests. Thus, timing is important on this item. Make sure staffing additions/adjustments are in place to provide for sufficient training. For managers, it may take months until they hit their stride with regard to delivering on your service standards and embodying the culture of your restaurant. Thus, you want to make certain those positions are filled earlier in the fall. Front-line staff positions may not need as much lead time.

Consider incorporating training around the company’s special holiday services, reservation policies and turning tables – for both individual guests and groups/parties. This gets particularly tricky around the holidays and can easily lead to dissatisfied guests if the policies are not understood by the team.

Set scheduling expectations.

Communication is the key point here. You can’t meet everyone’s individual needs; but, you can be fair, consistent and upfront about your staffing policy. We encourage you to over-communicate scheduling expectations around the holidays. Put a holiday schedule up as far in advance as possible, giving management and hourly staff the opportunity to trade shifts to suit their own personal plans. At least a two weeks before the busy season sets in, talk with your staff about what is expected of them and the importance of the part they are to play. This will telegraph how critical it is to operate as a team and help each other to achieve the goals of the restaurant and make the most of the holiday season.

It may seem early to use the phrase, “’Tis the Season;” but, when you work in the hospitality industry and know the difference the right (or wrong) hire can make, it can’t be early enough. If your restaurant has any hiring needs as you look ahead to the holidays, please be sure to reach out to us at TalentServed and we can help. Cheers to a fantastic holiday season and stay connected!