Whether we point the finger at the impact of Covid, Brexit or a multitude of other factors, it’s no secret that the hospitality industry is facing a crisis. Almost every restaurant I speak to describes the difficulty they’re experiencing recruiting and retaining quality staff in the current climate.

This month alone, we’ve seen the media make declarations of doom and gloom such as: “Hospitality staffing shortage: Pubs forced to shut over Christmas”, “Restaurant Black Iron Social closes kitchen due to staff shortage”, “Popeyes is closing restaurants early on staff shortages”.  Recent research from The Independent has even revealed an estimated 200,000 hospitality vacancies.

Despite some of the toughest conditions the hospitality industry has faced in decades, a few brands are weathering the storm better than others; managing to minimise staff churn and attract new recruits in an increasingly competitive market.

At Growth Kitchen, a premium dark kitchen operator with sites in Balham and Peckham, I spend most of my days speaking with restaurant owners. Given this unique perspective, I wanted to share some of my own observations in hopes of helping those struggling to attract and retain talent to succeed.

1. Foster a great company culture

In these current market conditions, it is more important than ever that your staff are happy at work. In my view, there is no better way to do this than cultivating a great company culture.

There are plenty of articles out there describing how to foster a strong culture, but ultimately employers need to provide an environment where staff feel respected, trusted, have a voice and can enjoy themselves.

In my opinion, the biggest determinant of culture is the people that are a part of it. Having an awful manager can hugely damage the culture of a brand and can make staff miserable, ultimately causing them to leave.

On the other hand, someone who is enthusiastic and optimistic can raise the spirits of a whole team. I’m reminded of one of the chefs at our Balham site who is continually singing 80s classics at the top of his voice. Although hearing ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ at 10am can get tedious, his energy is undeniably infectious and everyone in the kitchen is always smiling, dancing and having fun.

2. Provide fair wages

Like it or not, money is a great motivating factor for attracting and retaining talent. It has been well documented how large brands like Itsu have increased pay by 11% for both new and existing staff, in line with other global powerhouses like Pret a Manger and Costa Coffee.

Although many restaurants may not have the financial power of these large brands, it does highlight how increasing financial compensation can make a real difference.

Crucially, in an ‘employee’s market’, it is important that you are, at the very least, offering the market rate (and above it if you can). In an industry with notoriously thin margins, it may seem tough to increase wages, but even small increases can make all the difference to your staff.

3. Explore other hiring channels

As job postings for restaurant staff increase dramatically, it’s very easy for your job listing to get lost among thousands of others. Given this immensely competitive environment, at Growth Kitchen, we’ve seen some brands approaching hiring from a completely different angle.

Only a Pavement Away is an amazing charity helping homeless people get off the streets and forge life-changing careers in hospitality.

This is a brilliant initiative in its own right, and coupled with the current crisis, provides the hospitality industry with additional staffing support. Every brand I have spoken to about this service has only had good things to say, so it is well worth reaching out and exploring for yourself.

4. Consider working environments

It goes without saying that people prefer working in comfortable and pleasant places. The dark kitchen industry might not have the best reputation, with the Daily Mail and other tabloid press outlets having a field day at the state of some of our competitor’s ghost kitchen operations (and rightly so!).

However at Growth Kitchen we pride ourselves on making dark kitchens less ‘dark’; they are all spacious, offer plenty of natural light, large staff rooms with access to tea and coffee; some even have fully-fledged gardens.

When showing prospective customers around our sites, they are always amazed at how much thought and time has gone into making our hubs pleasant and enjoyable for their staff. Ultimately, this has meant that businesses operating within our Cloud Kitchens have not been hit as hard by the crisis as other brands.

Although there is no magic bullet, many of the brands we see successfully navigating the current staffing crisis have done so by taking the time to consider all of these factors. The hospitality industry will need to continue to be proactive to attract and retain staff, and brands that aren’t willing to be dynamic in their hiring approach will end up being left behind.

At Growth Kitchen, we always strive to ensure that your staff work in environments where they feel fulfilled. If you are interested in expanding your cloud kitchen operations but are concerned about the staffing crisis, please do get in touch with me at cameron.kavanagh@growthkitchen.co