Hospitality staffing shortage – tips for a motivated and engaged team.

Hospitality has been (partly) released from it’s lockdown shackles and we’re seeing an ever-growing appetite for eating & drinking out and increasing consumer confidence. However, a shortfall in staff is threatening to damage recovery for many in the sector.

According to new data from Caterer 1 in 10 workers have left the industry over the past year.

Shortages appear to have caught many employers by surprise.

A recent survey from CGA and Fourth, shows 51% of leaders have found that the reduced recruitment pool has been a bigger issue than they anticipated since restrictions began to ease.

So, what's happening?!

The truth is many of our operators – even those with long and successful track records – still fail to understand what motivates an employee to work in one of the busiest and demanding sectors.

I hear it all the time: “I’ve just lost another team member” … “I know my staff are happy, and high turnover is common in this business, so it’s not me”… “My best waiter left, and I am devastated”.

Attracting and keeping good (and loyal) staff is actually much easier than it seems.

Attracting and keeping good (and loyal) staff is actually much easier than it seems. All it needs is some investment in your time, and a few additional resources. Putting this into place will more than pay for itself – several times over. Think about the advantages of potential new staff beating a way to your door as your reputation grows! Fewer absences. Better trained staff. Substantially reduced staff turnover. And a team who are fully motivated to go that extra mile…essential if you want to place your brand or product ahead of the competition.

Ok, let’s say you’re willing to learn a little more. What exactly do you have to do?

To start with, set out to create your own familyAll your existing employees should feel part of your unique brand, seeing it as a way of life rather than just a job. 

Here are a few tips and ideas which we have found invaluable here at Bums on Seats.

  • Set out your values. Have you really thought about them? They should include staff wellbeing, for instance. What about honesty, loyalty, openness, and supporting and caring for one another? Have you asked them to be part of this family of values? Will you lead by example?
All of your existing employees should feel part of your uniqie brand.
  • Be ambitious. Aim to be the best. Your staff will love this. As you improve and succeed, your family of staff will feel proud and want to belong. Ask them to contribute ideas and changes. They are at the coal face. They know what your customers are thinking! Make sure that they also know they are the reason for your success.
  • Listen. Do your team feel valued and cared about? Do they believe that they have a future with you, that they can share in your values? Listening – rather than talking – is sometimes the most difficult part of being a truly great leader.
  • Training and recognition. I’m not talking about the half hour you give someone behind the bar or in the kitchen, but proper Industry approved training to give them something truly valuable and which will make them feel good about themselves and what they have achieved (see the Bums on Seats Industry approved M.I.R.A.C.L.E. Training programme). What about recognition for the work they do? Often late hours, dealing with awkward customers, smiling and being an ambassador for your business despite everything thrown at them. Do you praise them in front of others? Offer them opportunities to progress or earn further reward for outstanding and consistent effort in your venue.
Microsoft Team
Upskill your team. Every Bum goes through our IOH endored workshop M.I.R.A.C.L.E.
  • Upskill ALL members of your family. Do you know what they really need in terms of skills or experience to improve their performance and stay loyal, motivated, and enjoy coming to work for you? Ask them what would make their life better whilst they are with you. Help them to learn new skills such as dealing confidently with customers, managing both their time and tasks more efficiently, or vary their normal roles to keep their working life interesting and motivating.
  • Wellness and mental health as a priority. You can make a real and lasting difference to your staff (and yourself) if you get this right. There is plenty of advice (and help) out there, much of which is already freely available, but the initial responsibility lies with you. Are you tuned in to your staff’s personal background, needs and expectations? With encouragement, staff will let you know when something might be affecting their health. Giving them an opportunity to discuss it or seek help from elsewhere is critical to the success of your business. At Bums on Seats we have encouraged staff to become individually trained in providing first level support for issues connected with low mental health. Every one of my team is given access to confidential advice and support, and time off if they need it. Why wait until things get so bad your staff simply go sick or leave? Taking a lead on this, and getting it right, will prevent problems such as sudden labour shortages and difficulties planning ahead.
  • Mentoring. Set out key goals and expectations to be monitored regularly as progress is achieved. Ask other staff to mentor new staff, for example, and take responsibility for their training and up-skilling. Staff who are fully engaged in your working team from the outset will remain motivated and involved.
Mentoring your team is key to keeping them motivated and involved.

If all of this begins to feel a little overwhelming simply take a step back and discuss it with the whole team. You will be surprised how receptive they become, and how each one will pull together for the sake of others around them. Above all they will feel valued and loved!

Finally, look after yourself too.

Where do you get love, support, and advice?
I am delighted when I can freely help someone set off on this road, so please do not hesitate to ask me for help or further advice on the next steps. You can bring in professional paid support, but this is not necessary if you’re willing to invest a little time yourself. Looking after your staff along the lines I have suggested will more than reap rewards over time – and quickly too!


Amber Staynings

By Amber Staynings

Amber is the CEO & Founder of Bums on Seats. Having worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years she is a prominent thought leader within the sector.