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As the Restaurant Labor Shortage Eases, Creativity Is Key to Sustainable Growth

Restaurant employees are out of hibernation. Nearly four years after the industry-rocking worker flight, bar and restaurant employment has finally recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Breathe a sigh of relief—but make it fast.

Staffing issues aren’t entirely gone. Food services leaders now need to turn their attention to addressing rising wages, high inflation, and the remaining echoes of the restaurant labor shortage. Innovation is crucial for raising customer satisfaction while maximizing budgets—and restaurant managers must get creative to lead the charge.

Embracing Versatility in the Kitchen

While lean operations were key to breaking out of survival mode, restaurants seeking growth need to start bulking up. Diners are reigniting demand for customization, and menu and portion shrinkage will no longer fly—especially during inflation. According to a Harvard Business Review study, consumers seek variety when they feel less financial power. (That’s important because 84% of Americans are worried about the economy.)

So, how can restaurants boost profitability while providing power of choice? Strategic ingredients will be key. Instead of taking away menu items, leverage versatile inventory—proteins that can be used across dishes, sauce bases that unlock new flavor experiences with small additions—to save time and money.

Creative streamlined menus aren’t just helping restaurants stay in the black. They’re also alleviating labor needs. At Brine, a fast-casual restaurant in NYC, menu items are made from scratch—but its limited ingredients enable simpler processes, less training, and more time to dedicate to the customer experience.

Elevating the Power of People with Tech

The human touch is a mainstay of an exceptional food-services experience. In fact, 77% of consumers agree friendly employees are non-negotiable for restaurants, and recognizable waitstaff increases satisfaction. It’s no wonder why ghost kitchens are dying despite the pandemic-era hype.

Food service leaders know great staff members win customer loyalty—but the restaurant labor shortage isn’t totally over. Restaurants need tech to meet consumer demands.

Innovative strategies can strike the delicate balance between high-quality service and digital experiences. But tread lightly with robot waiters—unless they’re humanoids or part of the attraction—and don’t even think about QR codes. Diners are craving hospitality, and the biggest tech investments are best reserved for the back of house. Tools and processes that eliminate physically demanding labor (like Starbucks’ nugget ice machines) can boost efficiency and reduce turnover without degrading the customer experience.

Sustainable Growth Begins with Innovative Leadership

Creative leaders can unlock profitability and help you leave the restaurant labor shortage in the past. However, hiring cutting-edge managers presents another challenge as tech-savvy restaurant leaders rise in demand.

Innovation must extend to management hiring strategies. To attract candidates, experiment with flexible schedules, sign-on bonuses, employee referral programs, and other effective tactics—like working with experienced restaurant management recruiters to find highly qualified leaders fast.

When you’re ready to grow, Gecko Hospitality is ready to make the right match. We’ll leverage our global network of passionate restaurant leaders to connect you to changemakers who align with your culture and business goals—and bring the creativity needed to spark long-term growth.

Turn your restaurant vision into reality. Reach out to your local Gecko recruiter today.


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