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3 Challenges of Hiring Hourly Employees

By Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder
Submitted courtesy of the National Restaurant Association and CareerBuilder

Staffing a restaurant isn’t always an easy task. Finding someone with the patience, people skills, and work ethic necessary for the job isn’t easy. It’s a challenge that many hiring managers encounter when hiring hourly workers. Consider these three issues many businesses encounter when dealing with hourly workers:

Age of labor pool

With flexible educational requirements and scheduling opportunities beyond 9-5 weekdays, restaurant work often attracts students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than a fifth of food and beverage servers and related workers are between ages 16-19. But employing people new to the working world can be problematic.

Craig Dunaway, president of Penn Station East Coast Subs, notes that hourly employees sometimes fail to pay for what they eat or give free food to friends and family. These newer workers sometimes forget the company needs to make money and that too many freebies hurts the bottom line.

Other obstacles he’s encountered include parents who interfere when their child does something wrong and employees taking breaks and forgetting to clocking out.

High turnover

Since many restaurant workers view their employment as a paycheck or as a holdover until they can find something in their career field (think of the stereotypical struggling actor waiting tables), they often are quick to leave for another opportunity.

“In restaurants there is an old saying, ‘You can hire a dishwasher for a nickel,’” says Alan Guinn, a 30-year veteran of the foodservices industry and CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group in Bristol, Tenn. “What this means is that if there are two restaurants paying the same wage to a dishwasher, he'll probably be willing to leave one for the other for five additional cents per hour. It’s a tough environment, and I’ve seen people leave and go somewhere else for next to nothing.”

Legal issues

Lastly, note that there are legal issues when hiring hourly workers. “Be acutely aware of wage-and-hour laws, particularly as they relate to employees’ tips,” warns Gary Young, corporate attorney at Herrick, Feinstein and counsel to the New Jersey Restaurant Association. “Government regulators -- usually, the Department of Labor -- and plaintiff-side class action lawyers are forever targeting restaurants and can effectively put you out of business or at least drive you into bankruptcy if you run afoul of those laws.”

As the owner of your own business, you are responsible for knowing your legal responsibilities, both to the government and to your employees. Make sure you consult the proper authorities and reference books to learn everything you need to prepare, from health codes to safety practices to immigration laws and everything in between.


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