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Power to the people teams: Why successful restaurants are investing in their people function

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Power to the people teams: Why successful restaurants are investing in their people function

By Daisy O'Malley - February 20, 2024

​​It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has been through the wringer over the last few years. With all the ups and downs, one thing has become clear:

The importance of investing in people. 

Keep reading to find out how successful restaurants are prioritising their workforce in 2024, and how you can do the same to help your restaurant succeed. 

The shift towards prioritising employees in hospitality  

Labour shortages are set to continue rocking the industry in 2024, especially with the new changes to the immigration system

So what does this mean for restaurants?

It means that you need to be investing in your people. Delivering a top-quality employee experience is key to retention — and retention is becoming more and more critical to success. 

Two restaurant employees working together

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen more and more hospitality businesses build non-traditional people teams or HR departments. 

These teams are put in place specifically to focus on the employee journey. From being an employer of choice with great benefits to focusing more on learning and development (L&D), it allows restaurants to prioritise and improve the employee experience. 

This isn’t typical in the industry, and it’s more apparent with newer and fresher concepts. But it makes sense, right? With the growing need to retain quality staff, a dedicated people management team is the next logical step. 

4 modern people-centric approaches for restaurant managers 

As we kick off 2024, here are four ways you can put people at the heart of your restaurant operation. Follow these steps to improve retention, boost motivation, increase engagement, and help your restaurant succeed. 

1. Create a people management team 

As we mentioned earlier, having a dedicated people management department is becoming more prevalent in hospitality, highlighting the crucial role of investing in people in today’s competitive landscape.

It creates a dedicated space to manage your team, allowing you to deliver employee benefits, focus on career progression with L&D, and ensure employees are focused and engaged — all of which can boost retention. 

Here’s how you can kickstart your own people management team: 

  • Clarify your budget. We’re aware that not every business has the resources to create a people-focused team. Start by figuring out how much you can allocate to creating the team to be sure that creating a people management team is in your remit. This includes salaries and hiring costs — but also consider the long-term impact on spending from retaining more staff. 
  • Identify the roles. Will you hire a single HR manager, or do you need a team of people managing the employee experience? These roles depend on the budget you’ve just outlined, and the needs of your business. If you’re limited with budget and are just starting to branch into people management, a single HR manager is a step in the right direction. 
  • Determine your people-management priorities. Do you want to streamline your onboarding process? Update your benefits? Implement L&D training? Clarify where your priorities lie so you can deliver the biggest impact as quickly as possible. 
  • Track engagement, retention, and employee feedback. Keep tabs on your employee management efforts. Track engagement and gather feedback to ensure that you’re meeting their expectations. If there are ways to improve their experience, you can make changes. 

2. Achieve a high-trust culture

Trust is important for employees, and it’s a critical driver of engagement and motivation. 

Research from The Four Factors of Trust shows that trusting employees are 260% more motivated to work. They also have 41% lower rates of absenteeism and are 50% less likely to look for other jobs. 

But the same research also found that around 25% of employees don’t trust their employer. 

So how exactly do you build trust with restaurant employees? 

Being open, honest, and transparent is a good place to start. 

Masking truths to try and create a better work environment can backfire massively, and you’ll be in a worse position than when you started. If you want to build trust and develop strong relationships with employees, you need to be honest and authentic. 

Investing in people

George Hartson, Food and Beverage Director for Hartshorn – Hook, shares some insights on this

“We’re under no illusion that hospitality isn’t a difficult industry and that you do have to work hard, but it doesn’t have to be a horrible place to work. There are going to be times when there’s a lot of pressure, but you can still be kind to your staff while being transparent.”

3. Talk (and listen) to your staff 

In a recent interview (timestamp: 11:12) on the Turning the Table Podcast, Jamie Monsour (VP of Operations at True Food Kitchen) talks about the importance of listening to feedback from staff.

Here’s a snippet: 

“You had a bad shift? You spoke about it. You had a great shift? You high-fived about it. And then you started really digging into stuff and […] listening to your team. And it’s a huge part of sometimes where operators miss which is, your team will know the answers and our staff knew the answers. They knew we could get food out fast enough, they knew the service maybe wasn’t quick enough, maybe they knew the facility wasn’t clean enough.”

When Jamie joined True Food Kitchen in September 2016, his franchise location was #10. By January 2017, it was #1. Seven years later in 2023, the store is still in the top three. 

“I like to think […] the work we did with the team there really paid dividends. Now you see it, and that’s the true nature of this business. [It’s] 90% people focused because I think people get you the results in this business.” 

Jamie’s point was relevant in 2016, and it’s even more relevant today. 

Why? 

Because talking to staff makes them feel heard and appreciated — both of which increase retention, engagement, and motivation. And with labour shortages in hospitality, you need to do everything in your power to keep your staff happy and motivated. 

Your employees also see the day-to-day operations in a way that you can’t. Talking to them can give you valuable insight into ways to reduce costs, improve operations, and deliver a better customer experience. 

4. Use technology to enhance the employee experience

With the right technology under your belt, you can enhance the employee experience, effectively investing in people and ensuring their growth and satisfaction within your restaurant.

Take a look at this Hawksmoor case study as an example. Because of their people-centric strategy, nine out of 10 of their management promotions are from internal movers and shakers. 

And a key component to this success?

Technology. 

Specifically, a system for staff scheduling, HR, payroll, and time and attendance processes—like Nory. With our restaurant management software, you can seamlessly engage and reward your employees. Here’s how: 

  • Provide staff with mobile-first access to entitlement tracking, payroll information, shift swaps, and time-off requests. 
  • Digitise the employee journey, from e-signing and mobile onboarding to ongoing learning and development.
  • Gather employee insights and feedback to identify ways to improve the employee experience, increase engagement, and boost retention.

Automate tip management (in compliance with local laws) and give employees the transparency they deserve.

The benefits of investing in people in 2024

Your employees are one of the most valuable assets in your restaurant. Here’s why: 

  • They keep your operations running and play a key role in the overall customer experience — from greeting and serving guests to preparing and plating food. In fact, research from Deloitte found that friendly and hospitable employees are the most important element for creating a positive experience at a restaurant.
  • There’s a connection between employee satisfaction and restaurant success. This study found that happier workers are 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.
  • A happy workforce creates a positive work environment, which helps teams work better together. George Hartson talks about the importance of creating a good work environment to minimise staff turnover: 

“Our staff and our staff retention is what we are most proud of. Being able to work with the same people creates a fantastic work environment, which plays a big part in retention. It means that we can get on with our jobs and focus on what we can do best without having to constantly worry about turnover.” 

Increase employee retention with Nory 

With a strong team of people, your restaurant will be poised to navigate the challenges of the hospitality industry in 2024 and beyond. Focus on L&D, build trust, talk to your employees, and use technology to increase retention and improve the overall employee experience. 

Book a chat with Nory to elevate the employee experience ASAP! 

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FAQs about investing in people 

How do restaurants motivate employees?

There are various ways to increase employee motivation. Recognition and rewards for hard work, opportunities for development, career progression, creating a positive work culture, and providing fair compensation and benefits are some examples. 

Why is employee training important in restaurants?

Training employees is crucial for restaurant success. Why? Because it ensures you deliver consistent, top-quality service to your customers. Plus, it helps employees work well together, develops their skills, and increases their motivation.