Problem Solver: Serve up incentives to hang onto best restaurant staff
Q: I run three restaurants. However, I am really struggling to find good staff and the business is under pressure constantly because we are short on numbers. Any bright ideas to help us?
A: Since the economy has improved, the food service sector has been badly hit when it comes to finding suitable staff that can support the requirements of the sector. Some would describe it as being at a crisis point. There are probably two different approaches to trying to maximise success.
The first is in terms of retention and trying to slow down the exodus of any good staff you currently have.
Have you been exploring tools like six-monthly/annual bonuses when certain KPIs are reached which would encourage staff to remain? Can you afford to look at some sort of an increasing pay scale based on the length of service which would get more attractive the longer the staff member stays? How much focus in the business is there on the social aspect and creating a good work environment?
Assuming you have good strategies in place for retention and you are still short of some staff, you are then into innovative recruitment.
I know some businesses now that incentivise staff to identify potential new recruits and pay them a bonus if that staff member stays more than three months. You will find that many of your current staff will probably have colleagues in the same industry who they could point in your direction.
One of my senior team in Superquinn was constantly giving out his business card to staff who impressed him as he went about his daily business in various different industries and asked them to come for interviews, so that is probably another way for you and your senior team to headhunt people you regard as good.
Obviously, digital media is another great way to raise awareness - but I expect you are using that already. In my experience it is a multiplicity of approaches both in terms of retention and recruitment that will solve the problem. I would place more emphasis on retention on that basis that, if you solve that, then the problem becomes more manageable.
Q: I am producing a product to be sold on the domestic and export markets and am planning to attend some international trade shows in the autumn. Can you give me any tips on supports available to help me?
A: Before we talk about export I want to express a slight caution. For a startup business that has a product for both the domestic and international market, to be moving to export in the early days may not be the best idea. I am assuming from what you have said that this is a new business and that you are still learning the ropes.
The danger with going into an export market too quickly without having fine-tuned your product and your approach to dealing with buyers and consumers, etc, is that it could all become overwhelming in a market that is geographically far away from you.
As a suggestion, take a closer look at the domestic market first and establish the business structure and operating processes for at least six months.
It would be perfectly acceptable to be exploring export in parallel, but to be attending trade shows right now could leave you in a situation where you are over-promising and not being able to deliver for international clients.
The answer to your question is that depending on the type of business, your Local Enterprise Office or Enterprise Ireland are probably best positioned to help you depending on the size and type of your business.