Labor Shortage Solutions Part III: Retention - Culture & Leadership


By Andy Cook, Restaurant Consultant: Harbor Foodservice Restaurant Solutions Group

Our community (or sense of community) is rarely found at home these days. For many it’s in the workplace. The best practices, techniques, and ideas laid out are intended to add gravity to the culture that’s been created organically or by design, gravity that keep your staffing in a healthy orbit or attracts new staffing to you.


Your leadership and its commitment to anything and everything you do addressing culture or workplace community development is paramount. You must have buy-in and consistency for anything to prosper. While this isn’t universal, it holds true in the majority: People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses (and oft times toxic co-worker -more on that later)

Identify and reduce stressors

Talk to your team regularly about their pain points and engage them in solutions. It won’t be enough to learn what their stressors are, you must find ways to improve them. By engaging in solution-based dialog, you’ll have opportunities to share considerations that may inform a path forward. If a prohibitively expensive piece of equipment will solve a problem, but you haven’t shared that it’s unaffordable, you’ll come off insincere.

Most of the time it comes down to organization and effort. Here are a few things you could implement now that’ll make a difference to your team:

  • Check, or have checked, your kegs and soda boxes before a busy shift and switch them out. It’ll save service interruptions at the worst times, and you can cycle them back later when volume is lower.
  • Have a reserve supply of needful things that can be placed in circulation in key circumstances (like spoons that would otherwise fall into the pocket dimension that captures them and random socks)

Once systematic stressors are identified and understood, chances are there’s a technology that will help.


Modern solutions can create a more efficient work environment that can lower frictions, automate tiresome processes, provide valuable data, and save A LOT of administration human resource. Here are some examples:

  • POS Systems: if you’ve onboarded a new system lately, you may have noticed extra features that address evergreen stressors, such as ingredient listings accompanying menu items -this increases menu knowledge for servers, but also keeps them from interrupting the kitchen to ask or holding up the line for unnecessary modifiers.
  • Scheduling Software: this is a GREAT piece of technology that will help you two-way communicate important information across your team or positions, reduce the time making a schedule, automate shift coverages/swaps and more.
  • Kitchen Display Systems (KDS): this uses touchscreens to replace or partially replace paper tickets. The additional features make communication and organization of constant concerns or attention points easy, automated, and at-a-glance.
  • MarginEdge: In short, this program integrates your POS system with your accounting software and tracks everything you purchase by integrating with your distributor’s invoice, store receipts, handwritten notes, (even bills) simply by snapping a picture and uploading it to the program. You’ll get a reliable theoretical inventory, and the recipe function will tell you exactly how much you’re paying to make everything day-after-day. There’s way more, you should check it out.

The information, insights, resources, and ideas shared are intended to be motivational. The real value comes when new ideas and aha moments are aimed at a goal and powered by a plan. I LOVE my career as a Restaurant Consultant with Harbor Foodservice, if I can help you or your team personalize any of these ideas, I’d welcome the experience with you.

Contact Andy Cook:

More in the series on Retention

Compensation Strategies | Culture & Staff Engagement