Guides / Rethink your labor: new roles for the COVID era

Rethink your labor: new roles for the COVID era

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The traditional dining experience has shifted in major ways in the last several months. Our latest guide is here to help you rebuild your team to reflect the “new normal” of the foodservice industry. We’ve created a list of new roles, as well as strategies for filling these roles, so you continue to deliver a quality experience for your customers.

Why you should be rethinking your labor

Reduced capacity, a change in hours, increased safety regulations, new employee concerns are only some of the new responsibilities and priorities restaurants are facing. Some of these are temporary, directly impacted by sales volume and regulations, while others may permanently change your staffing model moving forward. These changes pose new questions and opportunities for operators. 

To help navigate these changes, we’ve created a list of new roles, as well as strategies for filling these roles, so you continue to deliver a quality experience for your customers. This guide is here to help you consider these new paths in order to rebuild your team to reflect the “new normal” of the foodservice industry.

New Roles and Responsibilities

From new safety measures, to an increase in off-premise dining, the traditional dining experience has shifted in major ways in the last several months. Accordingly, the way the industry approaches labor needs to change. Each new role and responsibility in this list will fill a gap created by the changing landscape of the foodservice industry. Depending on your restaurant’s needs and resources, the different roles highlighted below can be combined, outsourced, or become entirely new hires. 

Greeter or Concierge

Some restaurants such as Sweet Green and Hampton Social in Chicago are placing employees at the entrance of their restaurant to welcome and communicate new procedures with patrons about the updated guest experience.

Responsibilities could include:

  • New ordering processes 
  • Cleaning and sanitization procedures 
  • New staff roles & how they can help guests 
  • How guests can move throughout the restaurant
  • Updated safety protocols
  • Guest behavior expectations 

A front door greeter will create the first interaction your customers have with your restaurant, so make it count! Show your restaurant’s hospitality by offering hand sanitizer upon arrival or other safety amenities, like bags to hold masks while your customers are seated at their table. Depending on your establishment’s needs, the greeter may also reinforce safety protocols and procedures including guest temperature checks and mask requirements.

Off-Premise Manager or Carry-Out Coordinator

Between limited capacity and decreased customer demand, restaurants relying solely on dine-in revenue is no longer a viable option. An off-premise experience needs to be at the center of your business, and implementing an off-premise manager will ensure efficiency and a great customer experience.

Responsibilities could include:

  • Managing third party or home delivery platforms
  • Managing incoming and outgoing orders
  • Staging orders for pick-up
  • Double-checking orders are correct & include the proper utensils and condiments
  • Implementing safety procedures like packaging and seals
  • Handling customer complaints and feedback

Food & Safety Manager

COVID has ushered in a variety of new regulations set forth by governing bodies, and diners are looking to restaurants to provide a welcoming and safe environment for their return. This means putting someone in charge of your restaurant’s food and safety experience may be a valuable investment.

Responsibilities could include:

  • Stocking and supplying PPE to employees
  • Monitoring regulations
  • Updating processes and training
  • Overseeing safety changes to the restaurant
  • Taking staff temperatures
  • Enforcing new standards and rules with staff and guests

David Chang’s Momofuku Group shared their Safety Manager responsibilities for others to consider and replicate. 

Social Distancing Ambassador

Social distancing ambassadors can help guests remember to keep their distance from other guests. Edmund’s Oast in Charleston, SC created social distancing “lifeguards,” that sit on a traditional lifeguard post and whistle at anyone violating their social distancing policy. It stays true to their beachy brand, and brings an element of fun to a serious role.

Responsibilities could include:

  • Enforcing social distancing rules with guests
  • Maintaining correct foot traffic flow
  • Providing guests with hand sanitizer
  • Communication guest behavior expectations

Cleaning Captain

Take a page from Just Salads and introduce a cleaning captain role. Cleaning captains are responsible for keeping the restaurant clean & sanitized for both guests and staff in accordance with CDC regulations. They sanitize high-touch areas in 20-30 minute cycles, while rotating between the front and back of house.

Responsibilities could include:

  • Frequently sanitizing high touch areas such as door handles
  • Sanitizing front of house technology
  • Sanitizing tables after guest visits
  • Sanitizing back of house

Marketing and Digital Presence Coordinator

As customers continue to stay at home, maintaining a strong digital presence is a crucial part of engaging customers. Stay top of mind with social media marketing, keep customers informed through an always up to date website, and drive traffic via 3rd party platforms like Yelp, Eaterbird, and various delivery apps. Consider having a talented team member be responsible for your online presence, utilizing free tools online to get started, such as our digital marketing guide

Responsibilities could include:

  • Creating promotions
  • Managing social media
  • Updating website & 3rd party platforms
  • Email campaigns
  • Tracking customer feedback

Having a strong digital presence with loyal followers can require a substantial amount of time and effort. If you prefer to outsource this type of work, check out companies like Sociavore, that help you set up an online footprint with ease. 

Mitigating increased responsibilities with limited resources

With dining room capacity still limited in most states, a crucial component of maintaining profitability will be keeping your labor cost low. That can make introducing new roles and responsibilities challenging. Below are some strategies to make sure that you are using your staff effectively and efficiently, if you don’t have the resources to hire additional employees.
 
Pro tip: learn more about managing your finances in our Financial Re-Opening Guide: Recovering and Preparing for the Future. 

Shift the focus of existing roles

Think about what roles can evolve into new responsibilities, especially if you think the demand is here to stay. For example, can your host become a concierge? Can you transform your Assistant Manager into a Safety Manager or an Off-Premise Manager?

Create dual roles

One way to mitigate costs, engage more of your team, and manage new tasks is to leverage your staff in multiple ways. This also offers your employees opportunities to work additional hours and subsidize some of their lost income. For example, could a member of your staff be both a server and a manager of your social media and digital presence? Could another take on the roles of a social distance ambassador or cleaning captain?

Identify where it makes sense to hire an expert

Not every skill and area of expertise will exist within your current team, and it may be cost prohibitive to hire experts full time, but there are services out there that can be hired on an as-needed basis and help negotiate costs on your behalf. 

For help with your online presence, companies such as Sociavore have backgrounds in the restaurant industry and can help with website development, email marketing, and social media campaigns.  Managing a variety of equipment repair services can take more time than you have right now, but services like 86Repairs can be a one-stop shop for outsourcing repairs, negotiating lower rates, and providing insight into long term repair costs.

For tech support, consider services like Science. Instead of hiring in-house IT, have someone on-call who knows all POS systems and the various digital platforms that you’re using to run your business. Companies like Science can reduce IT and maintenance costs and ensure uninterrupted service to your customers.

Technology to Help with Safe Hiring 

Interviewing and hiring during COVID is a very different experience for employers. There are a lot of best practices out there about how to interview and hire safely through COVID. Below are a few of the best practices to consider:

Finding candidates

Leverage the network you already have around you; employee referrals or your past pool of applicants. You can also list your restaurant on platforms like Pared, a sourcing company specifically for the restaurant business, or use a service like Harri to source and hire.

Applicant tracking and onboarding

Tech tools like Harri and Traitset help recruit, track applicants and onboard new employees in a streamlined way, while also providing visibility into how employees are progressing through the process.

Virtual Interviews

Since having candidates come into the restaurant may not be the best way to interview during COVID, utilize video interviews, including tools like Zoom or Google Meets

Onboarding & Training

COVID has changed the expectations and requirements of staff. Enabling virtual training using videos and tracking will let you know when your staff is ready to start. ShakeShack and Bar Louie use WiseTail with their teams.

COVID-Hiring Best Practices

Clear is kind

Be clear about what types of skills, experience and any expectations you want to set with those that you’re hiring. It will help speed things up for you, and help potential employees decide if it’s really the right fit for them.

It’s all in the details

Schedule a time and send all of the details ahead of time, including links to the virtual meeting and confirm appointments 24 hours beforehand.

Be prepared to answer questions about safety and sick policies

Be prepared to outline your policies and processes that are intended to keep your employees safe. Trust20 is a trusted partner to restaurants, providing upgraded employee safety and cleaning practices that aim to go above and beyond CDC regulations. Your restaurant may even include a handout about what you’re doing to help recruit and differentiate yourself, such as what PPE is provided, social distancing practices in your operation, sick policies, FMLA benefits, and staff support programs.

Be upfront about uncertainties

Be honest and transparent about how you’re growing your restaurant’s team and managing through this time. Be prepared to address payment expectations since dine-in service is down. This includes the systems that may be in place to help subsidize pay through the pandemic, such as COVID-related surcharges, or suggested additional tip amounts on guest receipts.

About Trust20

For cleaning and safety information, visit Trust20.co.

Trust20 is built for restaurants and home to a new standard of restaurant safety and customer comfort in a post-COVID world. Based in Chicago, IL, and powered by Gordon Food Service and Array Chemical Solutions, Trust20 sets a higher bar for restaurants to ensure safer environments, staff behaviors, and diner experiences.