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What’s Ahead for the Restaurant Industry?

Change is on every menu, but restaurants are working hard to adapt—and looking for good employees to take them into the future

By Mark Fichtner

Restaurants have been around for years and years, but they have changed over time and continue to be redefined. You have diners, chains, fast food, fast casual, casual, upper casual, fine dining and the list continues. As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, the type of employee needed for these different operations also continues to change.                                                               

Like other businesses, restaurant companies have different employee needs based on the type of operation.

Fast food restaurants are all about the speed of service, and this is how we decide if the restaurant is good or not, or if we are going to return. Yes, it is important that the food taste good, but our standard of good food at a fast food restaurant compared to that of a fine dining restaurant is completely different, and clearly should be. Fast food fills a hunger need; fine dining fills an emotional need.

Likewise, the type of employee needed for each of these operations is completely different but totally essential to the success of both. The best job candidate for a fast food restaurant is someone who can work quickly under pressure. They will have limited customer contact since the average time a fast food employee spends with any given customer is measured in minutes or even seconds. In comparison, the average time an employee of a fine dining restaurant spends with a guest is hours.

When hiring restaurant employees, the key is to have a clear, written guideline of what kind of employee is needed. Why is this important? Because whether it’s fast food or fine dining, the restaurant industry is looking for people who can grow with the company and advance into lead and management positions.

Having a strong hiring practice and training program is key to the development and growth of employees and helps to reduce overall hiring and termination expenses. Restaurants want long-term employees they can depend on and reward and to whom they can give increased responsibility. Hiring and training new employees is a huge financial impact on the restaurant industry as a whole, and labor is constantly being monitored not just day to day, but hour to hour.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a huge burden on restaurants to once again redefine who they are–to themselves, their brand and their guests. Being resilient is the key to success in this high-paced, high-stress industry, but being resilient and willing to change is all part of what makes the hospitality industry so rewarding.

As times change, so do the requirements of what we expect of our employees. You may have been hired as a server and yet you are a server assistant, a host, a bartender, an expeditor, etc. Employees are expected to perform many other duties in addition to what they were hired for, and yet being able to handle all of those positions gives them the knowledge of how the restaurant operates as a whole.

For a restaurant operator, the more your employee is crossed trained, the more flexibility you have with schedules, service and overall cost control.

What is the future for restaurants in a time of a pandemic? This is a difficult time for the hospitality industry, but this industry has been around for a long time and will be around in the future. It may look different, and more changes are coming, but we will be here. Restaurants will always need amazing employees to operate them, so it is imperative that restaurant owners and operators create a strong and positive culture that includes respect and appreciation for their employees and offers opportunities for growth.

Is this a good time for people to get in the restaurant industry? Absolutely. The restaurant industry is an industry that can be an excellent place for employees to find a future career and position themselves for more responsibility with financial growth. The chance to run a successful restaurant is given equally to both college graduates and to those who chose to learn on the job without a formal education. Both candidates are given equal opportunities, based on their ability to understand the culture, learn the operation and be able to lead others and train them in that culture. 

The hospitality industry is simply that, HOSPITALITY. So, if one is looking be a part of a fast-moving business that requires thinking on their feet, working well with others, creating memories for guests, and growing in a career that has competitive pay and huge personal rewards, then the restaurant industry may be just the place to begin a new career. The possibilities are endless, and all one has to do is apply. n

Mark Fichtner is owner of Palate Restaurant Group/Carson’s Food & Drink.