Managing your workforce through crisis

For most, your restaurant is more than a job, more than a community, it’s not unlike a family. A majority of us take this to heart and, as the head of the family, you want to take care of your staff in a manner consistent with that perspective. This is easy to do when your dining room is full, but what do you do when the government mandates you to shut your doors indefinitely?

This won’t last, when our industry “wakes back up” you’ll need your employees as urgently as they’ll need/want to come back to work.

REMEMBER: Take care of your employees the best you’re able and arm them with information. They’re a restaurant’s 1st and best channel for marketing and communications.


Remind your staff that you are all in this together: Emphasize that you’ll do anything in your power to sustain their livelihood. However, consider that if you do not make decisions that are in the best interest of the restaurant overall, they may not have a restaurant to come back to once the COVID-19 threat is over and restrictions are lifted.

Be as transparent as possible. Deciding on whether to share actual costs of running your business is up to each individual person, and under normal circumstances, I would advise against, but these are far from normal circumstance. Sharing your prime costs with your staff may help in understanding the dire situation, if they don’t understand already.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep. As of today, the mandated closure is through December 14th. However, the reality is that is a tentative date to be reassessed as the deadline approaches. Offer any support you can, which can be as simple as offering a ride to the grocery store if they need it, or offering them some of the perishable goods in your restaurant that will not last the duration of the shut-down.

Layoffs: If you find yourself in the unfortunate position where you are forced to lay people off, ask for volunteers. Some employees may find that they will make more income (especially if new stimulus orders make it out of the Senate) if they go on unemployment as opposed to working slow shifts.

Stay Connected: Follow up with your staff regularly. A quick phone call or text just to check in and see how they are doing will go a long way towards maintaining loyalty and show them you care about their well-being.

Community: Facilitate a way for your employees to stay in contact with one another. With contact limited with the outside world, our friends and family are our greatest resource. Being able to communicate and interact with trusted individuals will be crucial during this time. Facilitating group conversations will allow your employees to support in each other in regard to childcare, meal prep, transportation, or any other needs that may have, not unlike a community bulletin board.

Menu: Construct your menu in a way that is easier to execute, minimizing the amount of staff you must keep clocked in. Remove items that may be labor intensive or have a long fire time.

Utilize your resources: There are many products available to you that may help you streamline your processes. Looking at value-added, pre-cooked, or pre-made products will help with minimizing prep and labor hours.

Marketing: If you have not invested in marketing, now would be a good time to start. Even if it just a Facebook page letting people know that you are open for business, it will go a long way. Just being open won’t be enough; people need to be able to find you. By staying connected with your staff you can request them to help amplify your message.

Repurpose: Find any way you can to keep your staff productive. If you have projects that you have been putting off, and have the resources to do so, utilize this time to accomplish those tasks. Set yourself up for success for when this pandemic is over. Whether is painting, deep cleaning, or establishing better inventory and product management, do whatever you can to set yourself up for success down the road.