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Cross-Utilizing Staff: Why This is a Benefit for You and Your Employees

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Staffing a restaurant has been a hot topic in 2020, especially with most workers being out of work for a number of weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily, these workers, as well as others who were unable to work during this time, had options to receive government subsidies (depending on the region) to help.

As restaurants began to reopen, some of these workers didn’t see or feel the need to return to work since they were technically getting paid without having to work. This may not be the case everywhere, but it was a pain point that restaurant owners felt in Idaho Springs in mid-June. Chris Verikas, the owner of Mountain Prime Steakhouse commented in a local article that the government stimulus bonus of $600/week was his assumption as to why he was struggling to hire staff - he hired 15 when he needed 30 staff.

With that being said, not only are restaurant owners struggling to turn a profit due to reduced seating in their establishments, but they are also having issues finding/hiring reliable staff.

So how do restaurants manage these different working conditions, especially if they have decreased staff? In order to keep the costs of staffing overhead down, we recommend implementing cross-training for your staff.

Cross-training staff is the concept of training staff in multiple areas of your restaurant or bar. By implementing cross-training for your staff, you are creating added efficiencies for your organization that will help not only you but your employees as well.

Why is it Important to Have Cross-Trained Staff in Your Restaurant?

As previously mentioned, cross-training creates added efficiencies for your operations, and with added efficiencies, costs are usually saved, and right now, every little bit helps. Cross-training your staff allows you to utilize one or more staff members in multiple areas during a shift which will definitely come in hand, here’s why:

Contingency - Say a bartender calls in sick for their shift, fine it happens, but while working with a reduced staff as it is, every set of hands helps. So, if you had a server scheduled for the same shift that was trained on the bar, that employee can jump into that empty shift without any issues. With other cross-trained staff on the same shift, they can each jump in and assist in the areas that need help, such as bussing tables, hosting, etc.

Adaptable - Staff that are trained to handle multiple tasks around the restaurant are ready at any time to handle anything you ask them. For example, if it’s a slower seated lunch hour with more than enough servers working, but your takeout and delivery requests are off the charts and your kitchen staff are struggling. Why not utilize the servers that don’t have tables to go into the kitchen to help relieve the bottleneck and assist in prepping or packaging?

Appreciation - This has been a difficult time for everyone, and those who are working have been working harder than ever to make it through. With that said, employers who cross-train their employees are investing in their staff and equipping them to work more and advance. This also makes staff feel valued and the ability to work more hours in different areas of the restaurant.

Cross-training staff also gives your team a chance to understand everyone’s part and that all areas, regardless of if they front of the house, back of house or kitchen all have their pros and cons - this allows team members to appreciate each other and the roles each one makes.

Staff Shortages and How Cross-Training Will Help Your Bottom Line

Overall, cross-training your staff will increase your restaurant’s productivity, even with minimum staff. For example, say you have a dishwasher who is experiencing downtime in the kitchen. Aside from slight uniform differences, this employee can easily go on the floor to bus tables, clean and sanitize before the next group or rush comes through. Having worked in the dish pit, this employee is also aware of levels of cleanliness and the expectations that need to be met. Therefore, instead of having 2 people on staff, you can utilize 1 to do two jobs.

With the shortage of staff as well, cross-training will help to minimize stress and pressure among managers and the staff who are wanting to work. If someone calls in or quits, you still feel confident that your well-trained staff can complete the shift without hiccups or struggles. Also, with more cross-trained staff, you will need fewer staff on the roster, allowing you to pick those who are efficient and mesh well together, all while reducing your overhead which helps cut costs which is positive for your bottom line.

Tips for Cross-Training Your Staff

When training staff, regardless of if it’s their first training session or they are being cross-trained for in another area, it is important to set reasonable expectations and introduce them to a positive culture that is shared amongst the team. However, when it comes to cross-training there are some things to consider, here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Communicate to your staff the importance of teamwork and that they should support each other.
  • Make sure each employee has someone who can step in their role. This offers contingency in case someone calls in sick for a shift.
  • Stage mock scenarios to ensure that your staff are cross-trained enough to take on the responsibilities of all of their roles.
  • Choose the right people to be cross-trained. This cannot be stressed enough! Be sure that the employee is driven, a team player and is reliable.
  • Offer an open door policy to your employees to offer feedback and ask questions.

As you can see, cross-training your staff can offer your restaurant numerous opportunities and benefits. It is a strategy that will help you now and in the future - advancing your team and encouraging them to work well together, like a well-oiled machine.

For more information or questions about cross-training your staff, please reach out to your local Sculpture Hospitality consultant. During this time we want to help you succeed, so reach out, even if it’s for a friendly chat.

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