Restaurant Startups: Planning for Manpower

Mar 15, 2020

Starting a restaurant is a dream for many, especially for those coming from a culinary background. For the dream to become a reality, there are often significant hurdles to overcome, and merely having culinary knowledge isn’t enough. But let’s say you’ve got the business plan completed, business funding gets secured, you’ve got your suppliers in place and your location is being remodeled– things are starting to take shape, right?

Not so fast—you need manpower. According to a 2018 HubSpot report, 59% of restaurant owners say hiring, training, and retaining staff is the biggest challenge they face. We can certainly attest to that! In our 30 plus years consulting restaurants new and existing alike, we see that manpower planning is a big issue that most owners gloss over. Not hiring the correct number of people is one of the biggest mistakes operators make when opening a restaurant!

The management team needs to create a realistic labor schedule that will be required to support their different levels of volume and service standards. What often happens is operators do not develop a staffing hiring plan, and they find themselves scrambling to cover post-opening shifts, resulting in unanticipated overtime. Not only is it costly for the operator and skyrockets their payroll costs, but it also burns the staff out, and they get exhausted trying to help cover shifts while they wait for the manager to hire more people. When overtime happens for extended periods, it also begins to affect morale negatively.

During the restaurant opening, you’ll need more staff, since many will drop out or be asked to leave. With that in mind, management needs to consider how many team members will be required to open the restaurant and what the ideal number of staff will be needed to run it once it normalizes efficiently. They need to keep these two numbers in mind when hiring. The restaurant staffing needs would be calculated based on the restaurant normalizing 3-4 weeks after opening. 

Let’s take a look at a concrete example. If you believe you need 60 or more front of house and back of house staff members to cover all shifts, then you need to host a hiring fair and hire 160 people. Why 160 and not just 60? The reality is that 12% to 15% never show up for orientation, while 10% will attend orientation and decide the job isn’t for them. We find that 10% drop out during training, and another 10% will prove not to be a good fit for the job.

A reasonable timeline is for management to organize a job fair 6 to 7 weeks before opening. To attract enough people, be sure to have a lot of exciting things to talk about, such as benefits, work culture, and other employee perks. Get organized first: find a venue, assemble your team, prepare your interview questions for each role needed, and spread the word about the job fair through social media and other news outlets (radio, television, print ads). Plan on hiring at least hiring 2 to 3 times the people you need!

Don’t forget that successful staffing doesn’t end at hiring. You must have training processes in place as well as the critical employee handbook. When employees quit, you should conduct exit interviews to understand their choice and to uncover any issues that may be causing employee dissatisfaction.

As you can see, adequately staffing your restaurant is no easy feat; however, with proper planning, it can be done!