Sometimes it’s not a small kitchen or a tight staging area that causes us to feel like we’re at capacity. The real reason we can’t handle more orders may be that we simply do not have the proper staff to get the job done. I have visited many clients with huge kitchens that could have produced triple their normal volume if the proper workforce were in place. In a growing economy—this can be a problem.
Good & bad
Many times I felt that we had great employees but not enough orders. A few years later, I was stressed because business was rapidly coming in, but we no longer had sufficient staff. One reason this happens is because, unfortunately, food service jobs can be the position of last resort for some employees, and in a solid economy good workers may look elsewhere.
I posted this in 2011: “If you were in business five years ago, you will remember the chronic food service labor shortages that plagued many operators. Whether this occurs again late this year, next year, or in 2013, now is the time to position yourself to blunt the effects of the inevitable tightness that will occur in the labor market.”
I saw this coming six years ago while others did not. I had a conversation in 2012 with the director of a large university foodservice department that was flooded with applications for a few open positions. When I mentioned that I thought the labor glut at that time was only temporary, the director said, “You’re wrong. Things will never be like they used to be.”
Obviously she was incorrect because unemployment in some major markets is now down to three percent. That equals full employment, and means that anyone who wants a job already has one.
What to do
There is no magic formula for finding great employees in a booming economy. You might have to pay more for less and find creative ways to get the food out the door. What you can do now is prepare yourself for the next cycle, and when you finally have enough competent staff, you need to put things in place to retain them.
I built and managed two large corporate catering businesses for over 30 years and (at least think), I’ve seen it all. I learned a lot about running an efficient and profitable operation through trial and error. Continue to follow my blog or send me an email.
Michael Rosman is the owner of The Corporate Caterer.
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