Flip The Script On The Labor Challenge

manager desk laptop labor challenge shortage

Article contributed by Ryan Gromfin

We all know that the nationwide labor crunch at present probably won’t let up anytime soon.

In the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, they found that roughly half of restaurant operators expect that recruiting and retaining workers will be their biggest challenge this year.  A recent Alignable poll painted a more dismal picture, finding that 85% of restaurant owners said it was very difficult to find staff.

These numbers may be directly tied to the last two years of turmoil in the industry, but we’ve been seeing this shift happening for a while. If you’re struggling to recruit and retain employees, then it’s time to take a good honest look at your restaurant’s culture.

Your success in the restaurant industry is directly related to how well you recruit, train and develop your employees.


No matter your growth goals, you will never have the success that you desire if you can’t get others to do the things you need them to do, how you need them to do it, and when you need them to do it. If you can’t master these skills, you will be limited in your success.  Let’s face it, you won’t accomplish much in the restaurant industry without the help of your team.

In your career, the amount of growth you experience is dependent upon your ability to deliver. Deliver service, deliver quality, deliver projects on time, etc. In other words, it’s based on the value you add to others, to an organization, to a company, to your guests.

In order to add more value, there comes a point where you have to get other people to help you.  But here’s the rub: I don’t believe people can be managed.

I used to believe people could be managed. Matter of fact, I used to try to manage people and, quite frankly, I sucked at it. That was until I asked myself the question, what if people can’t be managed?

I would ask myself this question over and over again because I never liked being “managed.” I mean, do you like to be managed?

I remember the first chef I ever worked with…. My first day at work, I was standing in the kitchen cutting something and he was just standing behind me staring over my shoulder. I would stop, peek over my shoulder at him, and then continue my work because he wouldn’t move. Finally, I had the nerve to ask if everything was okay?

He replied, “Yeah, why? Am I not allowed to stand here?” I sheepishly replied, “Of course, chef.” But he was really freaking me out.

If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t like being managed.  So, what makes us (as managers) arrogant enough to think that our team is going to like being managed by you? They’re not.


Before we dive deeper into this subject, grab a piece of paper and a pen and write this down: Manage Systems, Develop People. Perhaps do what Ted Lasso did and write it big on a piece of construction paper and tape it to a wall where you can look at it daily.

What if, instead, we manage systems instead of people? Systems don’t have emotions, systems are black and white, systems are right or wrong.  Systems take the person and the personality out of it.

Then, if they are not following the system, we develop them!

When you go to a store to buy something, especially at a big box store, a person is usually there to greet you with a quick welcome and then they ask you how they can help you today. How do you typically respond? Instinctively, you say no, I’m fine, I’m just looking.

That’s because we love to buy things but don’t want to be sold. Hum….Lightbulb moment!

People don’t want to be managed; they want to be developed. They want to be nurtured, they want to be brought into the fold, they want to be become better, they want to be coached.

Coach your team how to add more value and reward them with making more money or getting promoted (or both).

When we think about systems in our restaurant, you should realize that you need systems for everything.

You need systems for:

  • Recruiting people
  • Interviewing people
  • Hiring them
  • Onboarding
  • Job training
  • Requesting time off
  • The steps of service
  • Greeting a guest
  • Answering the phone
  • Counting a drawer back to 300
  • Checking out servers
  • Checking out cooks
  • Monthly maintenance
  • Yearly maintenance


If you’ve ever had trouble getting someone on your team to do their job properly, it’s probably because there isn’t a black and white, exact step-by-step, this is how we do it system.

For example, you should have a checklist for how Cashier 1 opens up the cashier station. Do they have to get the soda taps plugged back into the soda machine? Do they have to put bottled waters on ice? Do they have to refill cutlery and napkins and to-go containers? Do they have to reset their drawer? Do they need pens, pencils, tape, etc.?

These items should all be on a checklist. Then if Cashier 1 doesn’t follow the checklist, it brings up an amazing coaching moment. You’ve flipped the script from the error being about them not doing their job well to them not following their checklist.

Now, you can work on developing that person into the kind of person who follows their checklist!

Start thinking about systems, processes, and procedures in your restaurant as the way you do something or the way you want it done each and every time.  Then start documenting it and train your team to do it the exact same way every time, with the help of the documentation.

This is managing the system.

It’s either done or it’s not done; it’s either done right or it’s not done right; it’s either done on time or it’s not done on time.

It’s a subtle difference from trying to manage a person but it’s a big difference.

This mindset shift is important if we want to overcome the labor shortage and challenges. We have to do better for our employees and for our industry.  We have to provide out team with a path that is paved for them to follow, instead of wondering why they are quitting so quickly and leaving the industry.

If this overwhelms you or if you’ve tried to build systems and checklists and you’re stuck, please consider finding the right tools to help you, taking a training course or hiring a restaurant operations coach who has a proven system for building systems specific to your restaurant. We have all of this and more at www.TheRestaurantBoss.com if you need a starting point.

Ryan GromfinRyan Gromfin is an author, speaker, chef, restaurateur, and founder of therestaurantboss.com, clickbacon.com, and scalemyrestaurant.com, and author of Make It Happen. He is the most followed restaurant coach in the world helping Restaurant Owners and Operators increase profits, improve operations, and scale and grow their businesses.