Restaurants serve up a path to success — Part 1

June 1, 2012 | by Nate DaPore
Restaurants serve up a path to success — Part 1

Have you taken a look at the 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast? If you don't have a copy, you'll want to get one. If you have a copy and haven't read it, you'll want to make a point to take the time to do so. There are some fascinating stats in there.

My favorite is — "Eighty percent of restaurant owners said their first job in the restaurant industry was an entry-level position."

Eighty percent. That's unbelievable. Think about it — eight out of 10 owners started as busboys, waiters, waitresses, hostesses, line cooks, etc. These future restaurateurs worked their way through the foodservice chain of command and started their careers from positions that many look at as just passing jobs.

So what is it that calls to these individuals? It certainly isn't the glamour of entry-level foodservice, nor is it the high pay. According to the NRA, one-half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their life — and one out of three got their first job experience in foodservice. Billions of people have dipped their toe into foodservice.

With that many people passing through the restaurant industry, what can change their first job from a summer job to a career path? And how do you capitalize on that to retain top talent?

Research shows that one of the keys to attracting and retaining high-performing employees is offering clear career paths with measurable goals and success recognition. The upcoming workforce expects instant communication, feedback and instructional direction.

To promote foodservice positions in what many are terming a "war for talent," restaurants need to identify what makes foodservice a unique and appealing industry to work in. Owners and managers also need to step-up their efforts to delineate career progression within their individual companies.

No Glass Ceiling

With the economy — slowly but surely — turning around, more and more jobs are becoming available. Employees who were afraid to ask for better hours, more shifts or higher pay are realizing that they negotiate or pursue other job options. Now is the time for employers to show top employees that staying with a restaurant offers future career growth.

Among the top "selling points" for prospective employees in foodservice are flexible schedules, competitive pay, continual training and career development opportunities. The first three can be dependent upon your staffing availability and finances. However, there is no reason a restaurant can't work with their employees to develop a career path. Setting realistic goals and providing a clear metric for success and promotion are critical to restaurant retention.

For female and minority employees, foodservice is an industry that is quickly dissolving the corporate glass ceiling. In the last 10 years, restaurant ownership among minorities and women outpaced growth in the overall restaurant industry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1997 and 2007, minority-owned restaurants increased significantly: African-American, 188 percent; Hispanic, 80 percent; Asian, 60 percent; and women 50 percent. These are critical staffing demographics in the restaurant industry.

The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance says that restaurants are dominant employers of minority managers. From workforce language training to management training, restaurants are finding ways to attract and retain multicultural talent.

Angelo Amador, the NRA's vice president of labor and workforce policy, was quoted in an article saying, "We're seeing a trend now where there is more of a push toward management positions and this is hugely important to CEOs. Many of them tell me it is their No. 1 importance - to grow that number, to get [Hispanic workers] into corporate positions."

Sitting down with your wait staff, or other entry-level employees, and explaining how your restaurant wants to work them on developing their foodservice skills helps earn their loyalty. When time and money can't always be rewards — respect, recognition and career progression are key.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of "Restaurants Serve Up a Path to Success," where I will discuss the important role the restaurant industry plays in today's economy and what workforce changes may be coming.

Topics: Hiring and Retention, Operations Management, Staffing & Training, Trends / Statistics

Nate DaPore
Nate DaPore, PeopleMatter President and Chief Executive Officer As the spirited leader of PeopleMatter, Nate is passionate about providing team members, including his own, with a rewarding workplace experience that values creativity and innovation. wwwView Nate DaPore's profile on LinkedIn

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