Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Staffing
From the Editor’s Desk: December 2006

Respect or reward


March 13, 2008
By Cam Wood

Topics

In my 21 years of working in the foodservice industry, I
estimate I’ve worked with hundreds of different waiters and waitresses,
bartenders, chefs, cooks, dishwashers and front of house personnel.

Respect or reward

In my 21 years of working in the foodservice industry, I estimate I’ve worked with hundreds of different waiters and waitresses, bartenders, chefs, cooks, dishwashers and front of house personnel.

Some have gone on to own and operate their own restaurants, while others have simply gone on.

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We often view our industry as one with a revolving door. Longevity today is pretty much someone who actually knows all the staff names. It’s an industry that seems all too easy to drift around in.

But as a popular folk singer once said, “the times, they are a changin’.”

From St. John’s to Victoria, there is a very serious issue facing foodservice: lack of employees.

The lure of higher paying jobs, and a decline in the traditional age demographic of foodservice workers will be the source of consternation if restaurateurs fail to change as well. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association estimates that within 10 years, Ontario will face a labour shortage of some 67,000 workers.

Alberta, as we’ve heard, is already in the midst. Wages in the foodservice sector have soared 21 per cent as operators battle to keep staff in the kitchen and out of the oil fields. Some have turned to using incentives to attract the young and hip: free mp3 players, trips to exotic locales, paying school tuitions. We even caught wind of an Edmonton fry joint paying out a $3,000 signing bonus.

Kind of makes you think of how the Oilers got Gretzky.

But are these quick fixes something that will keep employees coming back shift after shift, or is it a way to fill the void with those seeking a quick giveaway until the next best offer is handed to them?

Employees need to feel engaged. Economic rewards will only sustain the mood for a brief period of time. Once they grow accustomed to a standard of living, their demands will grow, and their expectation will be for that free iPhone, not the next iPod. And so on.

It runs the risk of becoming a battle of material goods, all the while trying to get them to endorse a policy of service and quality.

Will you get them to care, if all they care about is the next treat?

Employees need to feel a sense of belonging, of being needed and appreciated for their efforts. Respect and value are givens. Without either, they’re pretty much out the door at that next available opportunity.

To combat the trends that are occurring, and the forces from the booming Albertan economy drifting east like a Chinook wind, restaurateurs need to re-evaluate how they manage their staff.

Not everyone can offer a free iPod or signing bonus. But everyone has the ability to communicate and empower their employees to feed their emotional needs. For some, the value of respect is so much more than downloading the latest thrash metal anthem.
And for those who choose the free-bie? They weren’t good for business anyway.•