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In a World of Staffing Shortages & Burnout, How Do You Keep Your Team Engaged & Happy?

While we are all counting our blessings that catering business is back in full force, it doesn’t make the stress, anxiety, and overwork that’s arrived in its wake any less painful. A Bloomberg Survey from last year noted that over half of hospitality workers wouldn’t return to their job, with a third considering not returning to hospitality at all. And we’re all feeling those effects. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently shared that nearly half of leisure and hospitality jobs remain unfilled in July 2022, and the quit rate is the highest of any industry.

If your business is struggling with staffing shortages and burnout, just know you’re not alone! We will get through this phase. But what many catering companies are doing now to rise above this ever-evolving challenge is simple: Keep current team members happy.

How do you do that effectively, despite the never-ending list of BEOs and contracts to fill, the late nights and the physical demands of the job? We asked catering executives from across the country on the International Caterers Association (ICA) Roundtable. Today, we’re sharing what they had to say to spark a little inspiration for your own business and team!

Tip #1: Show them the money & perks

As they say, money talks. If the business is there, the money should be too. It may be a stretch to give bonuses or raise salaries, but it is one of the (if not the) most effective ways to keep your team satisfied. Here are a few ideas other caterers are deploying:

“We pay our hourly team members full-time hours during the pockets of downtime we have over the summer months,” says Rajan Mistry, Founder, District Events & Catering.

“The team is the backbone of our business. They sweat and hustle so hard for the couples getting married. We have to take care of them. A few ways we do that: big gratuities, cash bonuses for random acts, daycare gift cards, pedicure gift cards, gas cards, new shoes... We know their work, they earn it,” says Brandon Snooks, Founding Chef, Farm to Fire by Hudson Valley BBQ Co.

Tip #2: Offer PTO as often as possible

It’s easy to decline PTO when the season gets busy. But it’s really difficult to replace that employee once they run toward greener pastures that will approve that PTO. Even in the difficult times, it’s important to work in enough time for rest. You can be strategic about it like these businesses, too.

“PTO is the way to go! We just closed from July 4th to July 7th to give everyone a little summer break after a very intense May and June. If you see an ‘opening’ in your calendar, even a day or two, I highly recommend this to boost morale and productivity,” says Ryan Corvaia, Founder & Owner, Dish Food & Events.

 “We block off at least one weekend a month from incoming business so we can say yes to as many vacation requests as we can. We already pay well, but one of our core values is ‘family first—we work to live, not live to work,’ so this is important,” says Julia Kendrick Conway, CEO, Assaggiare Mendocino, Inc.

Tip #3: Go on an adventure or get social

One part of loving your job is simple: you want to have fun! How can you infuse fun into the calendar? It doesn’t have to be anything overly complicated. Here’s some inspiration:

“In addition to all the pay and benefit incentives, we believe company culture is critical to success—our culture club works with the celebration committee to plan quarterly events. We have an annual tubing adventure in July that everyone looks forward to all year long. We budget for events, swag, and incentives for our team each quarter. We find that offering more than just a livable wage helps us maintain the incredible team that we have. We receive more employment applications from our staff referring their friends to work with us, meaning they’re just as excited about what we offer as we think they are,” says Christopher Sanchez, LUX Catering & Events, Managing Partner.

One part of loving your job is to have fun, so it’s important to infuse fun into the calendar. One way that LUX Catering & Events brings fun to the job is through its annual tubing trip. Photo courtesy LUX Catering & Events

“I took some of my staff kayaking this week and then out to dinner. We’ve gone every year for the last four years! Everybody loves it, and it feels like being on vacation for an hour,” says Amy Jurist, Owner/Head Chef/Pastry Chef/Full-Service Caterer at Amy’s Culinary Adventures.

Tip #4: Continued recognition & genuine appreciation

When stress gets to us, it’s easy to get into that hustle mode where everything else besides getting the job done falls to the wayside. But continued recognition of your team who is going through the same thing in the trenches with you is important. Here are a few ways to slow down and show the love:

“Most meaningfully, I have taken the time to sit down with each of my main staff, thank them for all of their help and really explain all of the ways I see them as an asset to the team. But I have also purchased very thoughtful and generous gifts based on what exactly they would love for all of my main staff (luxe spa days, designer bags, etc.) and have been trying to do little things on the job like bringing smoothies/coffees/treats for the more ‘transient’ team members as well. I think it is absolutely essential to make sure your team is feeling the love and being constantly reminded of what an asset they are, now more than ever,” says Melissa Peralta, Chef + Founder at Suddenly Simple Events.

Your team is your greatest asset & key to success; treat them accordingly

The moral of the story is that your team is the most valuable asset you have to serve your customers and gain new business. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to do any of it. Treat them accordingly, and you’ll see your business thrive with a happy and engaged team.

District Events & Catering, Farm to Fire by Hudson Valley BBQ Co, Dish Food & Events, Asaggiare Mendocino, Inc., Amy’s Culinary Adventures, LUX Catering & Events, and Suddenly Simple Events are proud members of the ICA. For more information on how to join the ICA and to be notified of future catering industry webinars, events, and education opportunities, visit

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit