As restaurants begin to reopen across the country, much of the discussion in the hospitality industry has been devoted to how to make your guests feel safe and comfortable in your dining room. We’ve written about the best ways to communicate with your guests during this time here.
But it is equally important to look inwards and ensure your staff are empowered and prepared to handle working in a post COVID-19 environment. Harri, a human resources platform for the hospitality industry, handles sourcing, scheduling, payroll, and onboarding for restaurants and hotels around the world. Prior to founding Harri in 2012, CEO Luke Fryer brought the popular fast casual chain Wagamama to Australia. After moving to New York and navigating both the dating world and the challenges of restaurant staffing, Fryer was shocked to find it was easier for him to get a date through a matching app like Tinder than to find a server for his restaurants. He took this concept of matchmaking when he founded Harri to match high quality employers with employees in the hospitality industry.
Jesse Davidson, Global Head of Solutions for Harri, has spent his career implementing technology systems for nationally recognized hospitality brands. Davidson and his team at Harri believe it’s extremely important to pay attention to your HR strategy during the reopening process. “If you are focused on consumer confidence only, and you're not applying that same logic to your employees, you’re going to fail immediately,” says Davidson. “But if you make your employees a priority and you give them safety and security, then that feeling is automatically going to transfer over to your consumers.” To achieve this, Davidson and Harri recommend several best practices for your restaurant’s human resources strategy in a post COVID-19 landscape.
Use Data to Track Employee Health
With several states now requiring employee health and temperature screenings before each shift, keeping track of your staff’s symptoms and temperatures and then prominently displaying that information is key to making your staff feel safe and your consumers informed. Harri created a stand alone COVID-19 Employee Health Check platform that any restaurant can add to its daily routine. It first asks managers or team members to complete a CDC symptom questionnaire and provides a space to record temperatures using a mobile app. Once that data is logged, you can pull and print reports to display in your restaurant or attach to takeout bags. Harri also offers stickers for your employees to wear certifying that they completed their daily screening for guests and team members to see.
If an employee feels uncomfortable working, Davidson believes it’s important to stay flexible in allowing staff to call out. “There's a lot of businesses that have flexed their staffing procedures or protocols around employees, giving them the ability to call out and say, ‘I think I should stay home’. And those companies are responding, ‘Okay, that’s fair, no questions asked.’” Not doing so can be detrimental to your business. “We had groups that reached out to us because they had people walking off shift because they didn't feel safe,” says Davidson. Not only does this create a culture of distrust, it is disruptive to operations and creates more headaches and cost with finding and training new employees.
Assist Your Employees if You Have to Make Staffing Cuts
As takeout and delivery become more popular, it is likely you will need to make changes to your staffing model and labor costs if you haven’t already. “Labor models have to change,” says Davidson. “If you’re a restaurant, you’re running on a different margin than you did before because off premise costs more.” To help laid off employees find work, Harri created the “HospitalityUnite” campaign to help displaced hospitality workers find employment.
“We were able to help those working in full service fine dining groups, where takeout and delivery jobs weren’t an option, by providing them with a source to get retail jobs at the segments like grocery that seemed to have picked up to help support them,” says Davidson. “Then we can use our system, which has 3 million users on the platform, to keep contact with those employees and bring them back to those fine dining restaurants when time comes.”
Create a Culture of Compliance
The hospitality industry has always been aware and prepared for health crises like foodborne illness and norovirus. Davidson believes that while the knowledge is already there, now is the time to close the behavior gap between what is known and what actions are taken by your staff. “People know what to do in these scenarios, but they’ve never had to do it regularly. Things like hand-washing, checking yourself for symptoms — these have always been part of the culture of restaurants, but keeping a culture of compliance around these actions is key.”
Davidson recalls with pride his time working on the line and knowing his team’s safety protocols. “We had to know all these things at the drop of a hat. What are the symptoms of foodborne illness? What do you do if you cut yourself on the line? How do you properly put a bandage on? Those are the types of culture pieces that make employees feel not only safe and confident — they also feel proud.”
In addition to sharing safety protocols, it’s important to create a culture of compliance by providing employees with information about their rights and information from the Office of Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). “This way, you’re saying to your staff, ‘I’m not here to deceive you, I’m not here to hide anything.’”
You can check out Harri’s Hospitality Coronavirus Response Center here. For more helpful reopening tips, Resy offers a free webinar titled “Your Restaurant Post COVID-19” every Thursday at 12PM EST. Click here to register.