Close-up on a blue and white sign in a window with written in “We’re hiring”.

Customers are dissatisfied. This is true in the foodservice industry, but rest assured, you are not alone. The American Customer Satisfaction Index, a broad measure of US customer sentiment across a number of industries, reported a slight improvement in satisfaction for Q3 2022. While that sounds good, Q2 2022 was a 17 year low on the index.


A lot of the customer dissatisfaction in the restaurant industry comes down to labor shortages. Labor shortages mean customers wait longer to get their food. When they wait longer, they complain or leave an unsatisfactory tip for the server. This decreases staff morale, which drives further customer complaints or causes staff to leave foodservice entirely. A recent poll found that one in four foodservice workers expected to leave the industry in the next year.


So how do you satisfy customers during a labor shortage?


Treat Your Staff Well

You can’t afford to lose staff in this environment. Pay them well and treat them well. According to recent industry data, good wages bring new staff in the doors; a great culture keeps them on your team. In addition to the obvious investment in wages, you may need to rethink your management strategy when it comes to training, scheduling, and promotion.


What does this look like in practice? Zazie, a no-tip restaurant in San Francisco, has not been affected by labor shortages. Instead of tips, the restaurant charges a service fee, shares profits with staff, and provides benefits. While that payment structure may not be feasible for all restaurants, it is indicative of how Zazie’s management views staff: as professional colleagues rather than interchangeable cogs in a machine.


How can you make your staff feel valued and respected? How can you nurture their talent for long-term growth at your operation? These are questions you need to be working on. When your workers feel valued, they are less likely to leave. They will also deliver better customer service, and your customers will notice.


Leverage Self-Service through Technology

Customers do not like feeling abandoned by waitstaff. So put some power back into their hands by incorporating self-service into your operation. Last year the FoodService IP blog covered the resurgence of buffet dining. While grab and go could be part of your self-service strategy, that may not work with all brands. If your operation is full service, consider how technology could help promote self-service.


Many restaurants use QR codes to PDF versions of their menus with customers, but those codes could be so much more useful. If your QR code instead directed customers to an ordering and payment platform, how would that streamline your operation? It would save your waitstaff at least two trips to each table and reduce wait time for your customers. This would allow your staff to focus on the most important tasks at hand while still nurturing your relationship with customers at key points during their experience.


The Bottom Line

Recruiting and retaining quality staff and investing in self-service technology are two ways you can improve customer experiences during a staff shortage. In addition, the FoodService IP blog has also covered how to streamline your back of the house operations during the labor shortage. If you are interested in tailoring these approaches to your operation, connect with us! Let’s figure this out together.


To learn more about FSIP’s Management Consulting Practice, click here.

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