News / Hospitality

Beating the Labor Crunch: Outsourced Strategies Are Key

Monday, July 19, 2021

As restaurants and other hospitality venues re-open and see increased demand from customers and guests, one thing is clear: labor shortages could slow their recovery, hampering businesses trying to capitalize on the booming consumer demand. From kitchen staff to waitstaff and janitors to managers, the industry is faced with one of the tightest labor markets in years amid an economic recovery from one of the worst crises in living memory.

While some point to the labor crunch as a short-term issue, this is likely wishful thinking. Labor markets were tight in the years prior to the pandemic, with nearly a million restaurant and hospitality jobs going unfilled as recently as 2019, when Forbes sounded the alarm that “the ultimate service industry is experiencing epic problems in finding people to work.” As more venues open, restaurants are likely to continue to feel the on-going pressure of labor shortages.

An outsourcing strategy can help restaurants meet this ongoing labor challenge in what could be a new model for restaurants to consider, helping them operate more efficiently in the long term. By outsourcing functions like the recruitment process, regular kitchen cleaning, and exterior and janitorial services, managers and staff alike can focus on their core expertise. In addition, supplemental labor for food prep, dishwashing, serving and cater-waitering, restaurants can take pressure off in-house labor and allow for long-term growth and development strategies.

While today’s headlines focus solely on hourly rate increases and signing bonuses, an outsourcing model attacks the pain points of a labor shortage in several ways.

First, the amount of time managers spend recruiting can have a distracting domino effect on food service operations. Managing existing labor, attention to customer service, marketing and promotion, vendor relationships – all can suffer when so much valuable time and attention is diverted to finding and keeping talent. Outsourced recruiting for full-time and contingent staff can help and is simply more efficient. For example, HSS and its parent company, KBS, have more than 90 recruiting offices and hundreds of recruiting professionals nationwide. Recruiting professionals within each office are fully focused not just on recruiting, but on recruiting specifically for the hospitality industry. This leads to higher quality candidates, less turnover, and better performance.

Secondly, focus is key when it comes to the healthy operation of a restaurant, whether it’s a large-scale chain or regional or local brand. Focus on food preparation and customer service are the core skills demanded of restaurant staff and managers. Cleaning is a function that, when folded into many other duties, is often distracting, inefficient, and poorly executed. Nightly kitchen cleaning, restroom cleaning, and front-of-house cleaning are all examples of functions that should be outsourced. The impact is twofold: labor hours are freed to focus on core functions while employees engaged in their core expertise and not overworked will have better performance and lower turnover.

Finally, it’s important to highlight that cleaning will be a key differentiator during the recovery. COVID-19 has dramatically changed employee and guest expectations around the operational health of facilities. Outsourced facility service professionals are trained to handle optimized cleaning and maintenance that impact customer perception in addition to restaurant-industry specific cleaning and hygiene needs. In short, an outsourced strategy can address these heightened expectations without further straining labor challenges.

An outsourced services strategy is important not just in addressing the current labor challenge; it is a critical long-term strategy worth implementing that ultimately raises restaurant standards and lowers costs. Restaurant chains with a national or regional footprint can consolidate services, apply consistent quality, and operate more efficiently with an outsourced partner. With a combination of contingent labor, outsourced services, and consolidation, the restaurant industry can recover from the COVID crisis while meeting the labor shortage and emerge stronger than ever.

This article originally appeared on Modern Restaurant Management.