Metro D.C. Restaurants Face Staffing Challenges

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaking at the Entree D.C. Food & Drink Forum on September 29, 2016

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaking at the Entree D.C. Food & Drink Forum on September 29, 2016

By Marc Ciagne

Last week I attended the 4th Annual Entrée D.C. Food & Drink Forum hosted by the D.C. government’s Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). In the not-so-distant past, an event like this in D.C. would have been underwhelming, had it taken place at all. But with the explosive growth in D.C.’s population, development, and restaurant industry over the past decade, and a more business-friendly environment than in decades past, the event lived up to the hype that has embodied the Metro D.C. Restaurants scene in recent years.

Hundreds of local entrepreneurs, business professionals, and economic development players from both inside and outside of government attended. Headliners included &pizza founder Michael Lastoria and Mayor Muriel Bowser herself, along with many other great presenters and panel members.

One theme that came up in the panel discussion at the end of the forum is the constant staffing challenges Metro D.C. restaurants face, especially in a city that added 75 new restaurants in the Summer of 2016 alone! In an awesomely-diverse panel that included El Tamarindo’s Jose Reyes, TaKorean’s Mike Lenard, Tryst’s Jocelyne DeHass, and Capitol Hill Crab Cakes Horatio Davis, DC restaurateurs spoke about the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality employees.

Here are some of the takeaways from the panel:

  • Talent is “super thin” in D.C. right now because of all the new restaurant openings, and it is tough to find dedicated, hardworking employees
  • The panel emphasized doing whatever you can to keep the great people you have
  • Employees that don’t have a genuine passion for the Food Service industry generally don’t last long, leading to high employee turnover
  • Restaurant groups that are expanding their businesses can find it tough to scale up and meet staffing challenges, and maintain the same culture and level of service

Blink Research can help restaurant groups manage employee training and development challenges. A well-designed Mystery Shopping program is a great employee development tool, and collects detailed intelligence on the customer experience that you can use to improve the business. It sends a clear message to front line employees that meeting performance standards is important, both to the success of each employee and the business.

An employee who feels hard work and commitment are noticed, acknowledged and rewarded is more likely to stick around. Retaining quality employees provides stability for the business, increases productivity, reduces employee turnover costs and helps set high standards for new hires.

Contact us for more information about Blink Research’s Employee Performance and Customer Experience solutions for Restaurants.