In most parts of the country, restaurants are feeling the pain -- even more so than other industries. Many American workers fall into the category of desk workers, and can more-or-less perform their function remotely. In Food and Bev, very few people have that luxury. If restaurants and bars haven’t closed completely, they have been ordered to operate through take-out or delivery only. Because of this lack of dine-in patronage, most restaurants are operating on skeleton crews. A few cooks, a manager, and someone to take phone orders are all that many places are able to keep on staff.
While these essential workers deserve financial reward and hazard pay, that simply isn’t an option for many restaurants right now. For most Food + Bev establishments, just surviving another week is a major victory during these trying times. So today, we’re going to look at some alternative ways that you can support your essential, on-site staff.
Support the Unemployed Before we get into supporting those who are still employed by your business, we should talk about the employees who have been let go. Restaurants and bars are right at the top of the ‘letting people go’ list these days, so it’s critical to take care of those who we’ve had to furlough or lay off.
Aside from offering what you can in severance packages, we suggest aiding employees as much as possible in taking advantage of government support. There are also many private relief funds and grants that these employees can apply for -- help put your staff in touch with these resources too. Try to do as much work for your former employees as you can when it comes to taking advantage of such funds and grants.
In many cases, restaurants have let staff go with the full intention of rehiring. But, if you are leaving your employees high and dry during these times of hardship… should they really be expected to happily return to work for you? With that in mind, it’s important to properly aid those who were once your employees. Now, as for those essential, on-site staff members...
PPE and Safety Your on-site staff is quite literally risking their lives in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s crucially important that you do everything in your power to keep them as safe as possible. After all, it’s simply not possible for your on-site staff to follow the recommended 6-foot radius for social distancing. Provide as much personal protection equipment as you can -- masks, gloves, hand sanitizer. If you have to overpay for these items due to a shortage, so be it -- the safety of your employees takes priority here.
We also suggest upping your cleanliness standards at the workplace. Bolster your standard safety protocols to match the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Given how unprecedented the current situation is, there aren’t many protective measures that we would consider to be ‘overkill’.
Food + Drink In addition to taking care of the safety of your employees, we suggest giving them plenty of free food and beverages to keep morale high. They’re putting themselves in harm’s way -- if you can’t give them hazard pay, you can at least offer free lunch and a shift beer. ‘Rallying the troops’ might be a little too much to expect given the state of the world, but you can at least boost morale wherever possible.
Encourage Sick Days Although this is number 3 on our list, it’s perhaps the most important entry here. If anyone is feeling sick -- even a little bit -- they should stay home. The Food + Bev industry has a notorious knack for working through illness, and while the work ethic is admirable, things are different this time. Employees working while ill puts their coworkers, customers, and the global population at serious risk. It’s simply not worth it.
Do not allow these people to work, and do not expect them to find someone to fill in for their shift. If you need to have a backup employee ‘on call,’ then so be it. Calling in sick should be absolutely stress-free during these times. As the employer, it’s up to you to make sure all shifts are covered. Show your employees appreciation by being lenient on standard call-in practices. And that brings us to our next point...
Be Flexible This virus is impacting everyone differently. It’s important to remember that as you navigate through the craziness that it brings. Some employees may have family members who need attention or other extenuating circumstances (which those employees should not be required to disclose). Make sure that you are being flexible and adaptable to change as required by your employees.
Waive standard discipline procedures, forgive lateness, and do whatever else it takes to show your staff that you genuinely care. It’s not going to be easy, but hey -- it’s not easy for anyone working right now.
Stay Positive Easier said than done, we know. But at a time when the whole world seems pretty doom-and-gloom, maintaining some semblance of positivity is crucial. Don’t be too harsh or critical of your employees. Perhaps now isn’t the time to strive for perfection in all things. Perhaps now is a time when a ‘good job’ is good enough. Things are so uncertain in so many ways, providing a place where employees can be even vaguely relaxed is huge.
Keep things upbeat, let things slide, and do your best to keep your staff happy.
Communicate Really, communication is always important in running a successful restaurant. But in times like these, avoiding any unnecessary stress or conflict becomes all-the-more important. Tensions are high and it’s easy to get frustrated over small things.
The best way to avoid all of this is through improved communication. Be forthright and honest when dealing with employees. As the pandemic evolves and conditions change, policies and procedures at your establishment will surely do the same.
Desk-less workers in the Food and Bev industry often don’t rely on company-wide email blasts to keep everyone up to date. So, consider using some type of mobile communication platform to spread the word on any COVID-19 related updates. Whatever you do -- keep everyone in the loop.
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