Want To Retain Your Foodservice Staff? Engage Their Creativity.

May 29, 2023

Want To Retain Your Foodservice Staff?  Engage Their Creativity.

The shortage of qualified labor is reaching historic proportions. According to Technomic, Inc., job openings at restaurants are up 40% in just the last two years. Higher wages may be one remedy for attracting and retaining staff, but the current labor shortage comes at a time when median wages have risen 10% since 2017 alone.1  If higher wages aren’t the silver bullet, what is?

Certainly “taking orders” is part and parcel of what we do in foodservice. Too often though, employers (of every industry!) lose sight of basic human nature: the desire of each person to use his or her creativity to solve problems and be recognized by peers for their talent.

Engaging foodservice employees from the neck up
One simple and effective tactic to energize and involve your staff is a recipe contest. Most of the people who work in restaurants have an affinity for food. Recipe contests combine this love of food with an element of competition, spurring creative thinking and one-upsmanship in a way that builds comraderie among the staff. You may also come away with some great new menu ideas.

Here at Simplot Foods, we just conducted our own recipe contest using our Good Grains™ Red Quinoa. Dozens of people entered the contest from the marketing, accounting and IT sales departments, and the resulting new quinoa recipes gave us A LOT to chew on (congrats to Mandy Harrison, Senior Manager, Customer Marketing, who won with her Coffee Cream Chocolate Quinoa Cake).

What makes a great employee recipe contest for operators?

Focus: Limit the ingredients only to those you already have in the kitchen. Keep the recipes focused on a specific daypart where you most need some new ideas. Or consider limiting the number of ingredients even further—like Iron Chef competitions from TV.

Good prizes: It doesn’t have to be money. Often bragging rights are enough, but don’t limit yourself here. The right to choose your shifts for a month and other creative incentives can dial up the fun factor big time.

Public recognition: Make the official judging a public event. Invite the entire staff and make an occasion of it. Let everyone taste the entries and cast their votes.

Fun: From the call for entries to the awarding of prizes, makes sure fun is at the forefront every step of the way.

Happy employees make for happy customers
Will a recipe contest solve all of your labor woes? Absolutely not. But anytime your employees are smiling and engaged, you can bet they’re doing a lot better job of keeping your customers happy, too.  Plus you never know where your next great menu idea will come from, do you?


1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2019/07/23/four-big-challenges-facing-restaurants-this-summer/#199a72ec2584