What Is HR in the Restaurant Industry?

Human resources in the restaurant industry is no different than HR in any other industry, although its implementation may look different. When it comes to HR, you have roles such as recruiting, onboarding, training, compensation, benefits, employee relations, and compliance, to name a few. In the restaurant industry, these same roles apply, a few more are thrown in, and the way they are carried out is quite different. You may be HR, but if you work for a chain of restaurants, most of the hands-on work with employees will be delegated to managers; you may have no interaction with the employees face-to-face.

If you’re a smaller restaurant, you’ve got yourself a small-business HR department. Eddy is an HR software specifically designed with small businesses in mind.

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Why Is HR in the Restaurant Industry Important?

You know by now that HR wears many hats, and HR in the restaurant industry is no exception. Let’s review a few of these roles that make HR in this industry so important.

  • Safety. In this industry, safety for customers and employees is critical for HR to implement. From non-slip shoe requirements for employees to avoid injuries in the kitchen to food safety guidelines for customers, safety is of all-encompassing importance for HR to stay on top of in the restaurant industry.
  • Training. Restaurant training is extensive and ongoing. Not only is every employee required to obtain a food handler’s permit, but if alcohol is being served, they need a TIPS certification as well. Facilitating these trainings and staying on top of expiration dates while assisting your employees to run a smooth evening dinner rush is yet another critical role for HR in this industry.
  • Morale. Keeping employees encouraged is critical, especially when their income depends mostly on their attitude and service to their customers. As HR, you should focus your attention on boosting morale and excitement through your managers, if you’re not directly at the location, or in person if you are.
  • Culture. With the transient dynamic that follows this industry, maintaining a positive restaurant culture is an important aspect for HR to focus on. Establishing and fostering culture is vital for this industry and can set one location apart from the others.

What’s the Role of HR in the Restaurant Industry?

When it comes to HR in the restaurant industry, your role has the same basic components, but as we have seen, they are tailored to this specific industry. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Payroll and Benefits

Although checks may be smaller due to tips being the primary source of income for servers, you still have the kitchen staff, hosts, managers, etc. that all need to be paid. Similarly, ensuring that your servers are claiming their tips appropriately for tax purposes falls under the payroll aspect of HR in the restaurant industry. Although most benefits are up to your company’s discretion, if you have 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees, your organization likely falls under the Affordable Care Act and must provide health insurance.

Responsibilities include:

Policies and Compliance

Not only are there state, federal, and local regulations to follow, but HR is also responsible for facilitating and writing policies to roll out to the floor. Items such as menu changes,  dress code changes, seasonal items, promotions, etc. are all coordinated at some level by HR. Coordination can mean encouraging managers to ensure each of their team members are properly briefed on the new items or sending out an email from corporate about a change, but maintaining compliance inevitably falls back to HR. Follow-up and accurate assistance when needed is critical.

Responsibilities include:

  • Crafting company policies and adding them to the employee handbook
  • Updating policies as necessary
  • Communicating with the organization’s leadership on policy changes
  • Ensuring that policies are followed by employees
  • Being aware of laws such as FLSA, FMLA, OSHA, and more

Hiring and Retention

As with most HR positions, hiring is part of the role and takes up a good portion of your day. From writing, updating, and posting jobs to interviews and onboarding, hiring is a vital role of HR in this industry. Marketing your restaurant to servers will be critical in this aspect of your HR role. While retention is a vital part of any HR role, specific to this industry some customers become “regulars” and prefer a specific server or get attached to one over another. Retaining those employees means more customers.

Responsibilities include: 

Training

Both new hire and ongoing trainings fall under the role of HR. In order to maintain compliance, HR needs to ensure that the employees are fully prepared with all the trainings and certifications required. New menu items may require some additional training for your kitchen staff that happens during non-open hours. You may have to schedule a before-work training session—paid of course—to set your kitchen staff up for success with the changes. If a new promotion is rolling out to customers, the same may need to be done with your servers or front-of-house employees to ensure they are able to provide your customers with accurate information for the promotion. These tasks can at times be delegated to managers, but typically, HR has a major hand in all trainings in the restaurant industry.

Responsibilities include:

  • Knowing which certifications employees need for their roles
  • Tracking employee training (using technology if necessary)
  • Ensuring that training is ongoing
  • Conducting workplace safety training 
  • Cross training workers so that they can perform additional tasks if necessary

Employee Relations

In the restaurant industry, employee relations are handled by the HR person on staff. You should handle each situation with respect, trust, and tact as you evaluate how to move forward for the betterment of the employees involved and the company overall.

Responsibilities include: 

Creating and Maintaining Culture

HR is responsible for maintaining a solid company culture, and this is no different in the restaurant industry. Encouraging employees, managers, and team members alike to mirror the desires of the organization for their customers is a key aspect in any HR position in the restaurant industry.

Responsibilities include: 

Scheduling

One of HR’s major responsibilities in the restaurant industry is scheduling. It’s critical that restaurants have enough staff members to meet customer needs—after all, how many negative Google reviews mention the words “bad customer service?” When hungry people have to wait too long for their food, things go downhill quickly.

HR helps by creating schedules that suit the needs of employees, making sure that the restaurant will be well-staffed at all times. It’s also important to create a plan for what to do when workers get sick or have another extenuating circumstance that prevents them from getting to work. Another thing to take into consideration when it comes to scheduling is shift swapping amongst employees.

Responsibilities include:

  • Using data to decide how many people need to be scheduled to work on any given day
  • Creating schedules ahead of time (weekly, biweekly, or monthly)
  • Distributing the schedule to the team
  • Tracking employee time and attendance
  • Designing a time off plan that will prevent employee burnout

Challenges of HR in the Restaurant Industry

While HR in the restaurant industry may have similarities to most HR professions, let’s look at the challenges specific to this industry.

Employee Benefits Can Be Inconsistent

As discussed above, the Affordable Care Act may apply to your company and can form a scheduling challenge. When the restaurant is slow, you typically send servers home to avoid overstaffing. But when your employees are required to hit a minimum-hour requirement in order to maintain ACA benefits, HR may need to communicate to managers accordingly in order to ensure employees don’t fall short. This presents a problem because servers also make most of their money on tips, so staying on duty when the restaurant is slow and they aren’t making those bigger dollars can be challenging to navigate.

Acquired Talent Lack Necessary Training

It’s common to encounter candidates who believe they have what it takes to work in this industry without any experience. While training can take place, this typically leaves your restaurant with a shortage of skills. Balancing many plates on a large tray without spilling hot soup on a customer is a skill learned through continual training. Finding and retaining those employees is extremely difficult for a restaurant when most of your employees use these positions as a bridge to something else or as a way to make quick cash to save up for something, etc. Talent acquisition and retention can be one of the most difficult challenges of the restaurant industry.

Skewed Markets Make It Hard to Recruit

To understand how this works, let’s look at an example. Abby Olson, VP of training at Crumbl Cookies HQ, explains why some Crumbl franchises have a harder time recruiting than others.

“[Franchisees] who have a difficult time recruiting bakers are usually ones who have a skewed market … meaning, if every other like-minded business has their own starting wage and there’s no consistency, it makes it hard for Crumbl franchises to seem relevant.

We want bakers to join the team because they love the brand and are excited about their specific store market and culture, but the fact of the matter is, most people have jobs because they need income. If your neighboring food and beverage business is offering significantly over market value for the position, there’s only so much flexibility you can offer for an entry-level position.

For example, Orem, UT has food and beverage businesses paying an entry-level position the wage you’d make with a 4-year college degree. Being a baker at a Crumbl franchise doesn’t require a college degree, so trying to match those wages doesn’t make sense for the Crumbl franchisee.”

If your company can’t afford to match the wages of other restaurants in the area, you might need to start thinking about other benefits you can offer. While money is important, offering unique and attractive benefits can also work wonders in attracting candidates.

Morale Can Suffer Due to Unhappy Customers

As with any HR position, morale and employee engagement can be difficult to manage. To encourage employees to be engaged while being constantly devalued by disgruntled customers presents a challenge specific to the restaurant industry. Encouraging all employees to approach each new customer positively—even if they sent their food back to the kitchen three times and the cook is overwhelmed, the server is frustrated, and the manager is doing all they can—is difficult but necessary.

When to Hire an HR Professional for Your Restaurant

Generally, it’s best to have an in-house HR professional by the time your business is approaching 50 employees. At that point, there are so many people and processes that it’s helpful to have one person dedicated to taking care of things. Plus, different laws apply as companies grow, and you’ll want to have somebody who’s familiar with those laws. 

While having HR at the 50-employee mark is a good idea, it’s even better to have HR before that. From hiring the right people to building a strong workplace culture, human resources professionals have the knowledge and experience to help businesses grow and thrive. 

Hiring an HR generalist is a good first step. As opposed to specialists, who usually have one main area of expertise, generalists know a bit about every area of HR. This allows them to take on every HR responsibility. If you’re ready to take the leap and hire an HR generalist, these sample job descriptions from Indeed can give you inspiration for your own job description.

How Eddy Can Help Simplify Your HR Processes

In a fast-paced restaurant environment, there’s often a lot to think about. With so much going on at once, it can be difficult for small business owners to balance necessary HR functions with big-picture strategy. 

That’s where Eddy can help! Eddy is an all-in-one HR software that automates administrative HR functions, leaving you more time to focus on the big picture. Eddy People makes onboarding simple with custom task lists and digitally signed paperwork. It provides time tracking, an employee directory, training tracking, and more. Eddy also offers solutions to help with hiring and payroll

Learn more about how Eddy can simplify your HR processes