Top 5 Takeaways from Talk Shop LIVE Detroit

Highlights from the discussion on the Skilled Labor Shortage

1. Consider Eliminating Tipping to Close the Front-and Back-of-House Wage Gap


Kiki Louya says of her restaurant, Folk: “We decided that we wanted front-and back-of-house to be paid the same amount of money, because we’re all a team and we all work together to make this thing happen.” She and her business partner, Rohani Foulkles, strive to cultivate a team that believes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To offset additional labor costs – which they largely manage through Homebase – her team recently instituted an 18% service charge to all dine-in checks, with an explanation to customers that it is helping to pay all of their workers a living wage. So far, it seems to be working for them – she’s seeing great success with the service charge and has seen an outpouring of support from diners and increased interest from potential restaurant staff.

2. Find Restaurant Staff from Training Centers for Returning Citizens

Chef Max Hardy of River Bistro has seen great success hiring from Operation Able, a Michigan-based center that trains returning citizens – among others – for core roles in the restaurant industry. Hardy says he’s found amazing and capable restaurant staff from Operation Able to fill multiple roles. His team invests time in further mentoring those from the organization to grow into more senior positions.
 For more resources on hiring and restaurant staff training from alternative backgrounds, read advice from Brother Luck on his commitment to hiring veterans for his restaurant in our Denver Top 5 Takeaways.

3. Break Up with the Traditional Restaurant Staff Hierarchy

Lisa Ludwinski of Sister Pie is working to change the traditional restaurant staff hierarchy by no longer hiring for specific roles. Now, everyone on her team has the opportunity to perform every role – from dishwashing to serving. She says creating the ultimate cross-trained team has paid off in spades, and has actually resulted in lower restaurant labor costs. She’s seen more employee retention as well, because her teams are always learning new tasks and owning new responsibilities – something the millennial workforce, in particular, craves.

4. When It Comes to Sourcing Restaurant Staff, Tech Isn’t Everything

Lisa Ludwinski has made her shop’s strong culture a constant advertisement for recruiting restaurant staff. She says many of her employees started out as loyal customers who noticed the vibrant, rich atmosphere she works hard to cultivate.

Lisa isn’t afraid to go old school. She’s a big fan of the stalwart "Help Wanted" sign in the window, because it draws dedicated folks from the neighborhood who need jobs, who are willing to learn and are eager to become part of the team. Those team members typically also have the highest retention rates, and are among the strongest employees.

5. Seek Mentorship from the Next Generation

Chef Marcus Samuelsson is committed to continuing to learn new techniques and influences. At his restaurants, mentorship among the staff is key – but he also recommends that seasoned chefs find young, up-and-coming mentors who can help everyone stay inspired, create fresh ideas and foster a two-way mentorship environment that makes even the most veteran operators better leaders.

Live stream our next panel with host Chef Marcus Samuelsson, where we discuss how to reduce food waste. Check out our Austin event coming up Monday, October 1 at 4:30 pm CDT.

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Coming soon in the Winter Food Fanatics® magazine – out November 12 – get insight from foodservice industry experts on "When It’s Time to Fire a Bad Employee."