Hiring: The Hot 2016 Issue

May 12, 2016

In many segments of foodservice, hiring good employees seems to be extremely difficult. There is a growing number of jobs as the economy strengthens, but it is harder to fill those positions permanently. An article published by Nation’s Restaurant News sums it up nicely, “Quick-service recruiting difficulty hits historic high.” This article covers the People Report Workforce Index, which measures the expected market pressure on restaurant employment. Interestingly, it has reached the highest levels for both hourly and management position in 10-years. Casual-dining recruiting is also high, although that segment is not experiencing the record breaking difficulty in filling vacancies of quick-service.

While we don’t have a specific Workforce Index for the vending industry, it’s safe to say our industry is experiencing a similar issue. Hiring good people was mentioned as a key issue for growing vending, micro market, and office coffee service operators in several sessions at the NAMA OneShow. 

Why is this happening?

So why has it been so hard to find “good” and “great” employees? There could be a few reasons.

The unemployment rate is 5.0 percent according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That is a far cry from the 9 percent in 2011, so more people are at work. Is it a work ethic problem? Too many people going into higher education? Is it that Baby Boomers are retiring?

I am not going to pretend to know the exact answer…I’m not even sure there is one, but I did see some articles about wages that really made me pause. Perhaps there is a correlation between wage offerings at food service companies, including vending operations, and the ability to attract good/great employees.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research published an article late last year about this growing shortage of labor in the restaurant industry leaving many positions unfilled. Using the available data, the author argues the industry isn’t offering competitive wages, rather than there is a true lack of employees.

A smaller pool of workers should mean substantial wage growth to attract those workers. The wage growth data presented from 2007-2015 however, shows almost no wage growth. The article concludes that the wage and industry data overall do not give the impression of a shortage of workers, but that instead the industry is unrealistic with wages and the positions they hope to fill.

Another article from about the same time was written by the founding chef of FoodSense restaurant consultants and he could see both sides of the problem. As a restaurant owner, he felts like telling foodservice workers that no one promised them they would make as much as software engineers. And while he’d love to pay them $20 an hour plus dental and a weekly massage, he’d also love not to go broke. Still, from the employee side, he recognized that the wages reported in many areas of the country are the same as what he was paid 30 years ago, yet costs are much higher. It’s problem, and one he didn’t have a solution to.

Use your HR hat

Not being able to fill vacancies in your organization is a strain on the entire operation. Other employees feel stressed and overworked. Customers don’t get the level of service they want. It’s a difficult situation and one that does not have a quick fix, especially when I’m sure you would love to pay your employees more, but would also like to stay in business.

Perhaps part of the solution is doing for your employees what you help locations do for theirs. An alternative to increasing employee pay would be to offer other incentives and benefits. Try offering a fancy breakroom, micro market, free snacks, etc. Try more flexible hours, or a different approach to work life balance that will appeal to Millennials. 

It’s often easy to see the world from a single point of view, but it’s not always helpful when dealing with an obstacle. Instead let’s be creative and proactive in this “hiring shortage” that’s creeping into vending.