A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Student Employees in the Restaurant Business
If there's one thing I've learned in my years in the kitchen, it's that the heart of a restaurant isn't in its décor or its Instagram-worthy dishes. It's in the hustle and bustle of the staff, the people who keep the ship sailing smoothly through the stormiest seas. Particularly those young, eager student employees who come in, ready to learn the ropes and, often, eager to prove themselves.
Managing these student employees, however, can sometimes feel like trying to herd cats. But worry not, fellow culinary captains. Here's your guide to turning these greenhorns into your greatest asset.
1. Understanding the Student Workforce
As of 2021, nearly half of the restaurant workforce was under the age of 25. That's a hefty slice of your crew that's likely juggling coursework, exams, and social lives alongside their shifts. They're not just working for the paycheck; they're also there for the experience, the references, and the skills that'll help them later in life.
Remember: you're not just their boss. You're their mentor. You're the one who's going to teach them the difference between a julienne and a brunoise, and why it matters.
2. Flexible Schedules Are Key
Life as a student is a whirlwind. It's essays due at midnight and cramming for exams, it's group projects, and part-time internships. Now, add a restaurant job into the mix.
Here's where the magic of Clock'd can save your sanity. Clock'd is a staffing service built for the restaurant industry, designed to provide flexibility and ease to both employers and employees. Its in-house Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Seen, allows you to schedule interviews when you’re available. It's like having a personal assistant for your roster.
3. Attracting and Retaining Talent
There's no denying it: the restaurant industry faces high turnover rates. According to a 2020 report by the National Restaurant Association, when covid hit the hospitality industry lost 30% of its workforce. Pre and post covid wasn’t any better with the industry average turnover being +70% consistently. For student employees, the rate is even higher.
But here's the thing - students aren't just looking for a job. They're looking for a place where they can grow, learn, and be part of something. They want to know they're valued, not just as another body on the floor, but as a part of the team.
And this is where Clock'd and Seen really shine. With these tools, you can track applicants, manage interviews, and streamline your hiring process. You can even highlight your restaurant’s unique selling points - like flexible schedules, learning opportunities, or great team culture - to attract the right kind of candidates.
4. Training and Development
Remember your first day in a professional kitchen? The heat, the noise, the chaos? Now imagine being 20 years old, balancing school, and trying to figure out which way is up.
Training is key. Make it consistent. Make it comprehensive. And most importantly, make it continuous. Don't just train them once and throw them into the deep end. Regular training sessions and check-ins, along with constructive feedback, can turn your student employees from novices into assets.
5. Recognition and Rewards
We're in the hospitality industry, but sometimes we forget to extend that hospitality to our own staff. Recognize the hard work your student employees are putting in. Celebrate their successes. Give them incentives to stick around.
Remember: A little recognition goes a long way in building loyalty.
In the end, managing student employees in the restaurant industry is no small feat, but it's one that can yield impressive results when done right. By understanding their unique challenges, offering flexibility, attracting the right kind of talent, providing ongoing training, and acknowledging their efforts, you're not just building a stronger, more resilient workforce - you're also crafting the next generation of industry professionals.
Embrace technology solutions like Clock'd and Seen to streamline your processes and take some of the weight off your shoulders. With the right tools and the right approach, those fresh-faced students who walk through your door could very well become the heart and soul of your establishment.
Marc LaPierre is a 10-year veteran of the food and hospitality industry, Certified Staffing Professional, and CEO/Founder of Clock’d + SEEN. From cooking in James Beard award-winning kitchens to opening and managing a nightclub in Mexico, he worked every job in the industry. Today he connects professionals looking to advance their careers with clients eager to find an all-star team.