Restaurant managers tell how they are dealing with the problem.
Unemployment in March in Volusia and Flagler County was 3.6%, a decline from 3.9% one year ago and a sharp drop from the 2010 averages of 12.4% in Flagler County and 12.3% in Volusia County. Florida’s unemployment rate was 3.5% in March and it has declined or held steady over the past 102 consecutive months, according to Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity.
One of the results of this robust job market is currently a common site around the area, help-wanted signs at restaurants. A local jobs professional believes this service industry job would be a good opportunity for young job seekers to gain valuable experience, and a couple of restaurant owners explain how they deal with the demand for employees.
LEARNING PEOPLE SKILLS
Help wanted signs are often seen at restaurants, because many people apply in person.
“That’s the easiest way for them to advertise,” explained Christine Sikora, vice president of innovative workforce solutions at CareerSource Flagler/Volusia.
Sikora is a strong advocate for working in the hospitality industry, including restaurants, saying it’s a great experience.
“You have to learn conflict resolution and customer relations. These skills can be applied to many other jobs,” she said.
She said there were more potential employees for the restaurants during the recession, but now some of those people have gone back to jobs they had before being laid off. Also, the hospitality industry depends on students, and their number fluctuates during the year.
Joe Cofer, managing partner of Houligan’s at Destination Daytona, agreed the demand for employees is economically driven.
“A few years ago, there was an abundance of people applying for jobs. It’s not just the restaurant industry,” he said.
He said restaurants are looking for everyone from bussers to cooks.
WATER THE FLOWERS
One problem, Cofer said, is that restaurants operate on a small profit margin and can pay employees only so much. But salary is not the only way to keep good employees. They may want a particular shift, for example.
“I try to have a fun environment for employees,” he said. “I think of them as a big family.”
His management philosophy is to “pull the weeds and water the flowers.”
The “weeds” are employees with bad attitudes who complain a lot. If they are pulled, other employees start to bloom and create lots of energy.
“They may have been too shy to speak up,” he said.
Management is an important factor in having a pleasant environment, he said People want good food in a timely manner. If a manager doesn’t staff right, employees can become stressed out and overwhelmed, and it becomes a negative environment.
“It’s costly to have turnover,” Cofer said. “You’re always training somebody.”
BUILDING BLOCK FOR SUCCESS
Johnny Lulgjuraj, manager at Oceanside Beach Bar and Grill in Flagler Beach, said there’s always been a shortage of workers, even when the economy is good.
“There are so many restaurants,” he said. “A person can go down the street and get another job. There’s a lot of jumping around.”
He partners with local high schools to let students know of the benefits of working in the service industry, such as learning team work and customer service.
“It’s a building block for success in life,” he said.
Learning the basics of cooking and food safety also are things a person can take with them the rest of their lives. Plus, a person can learn skills they can always fall back on.
He agrees that it’s more than just salary when it comes to retaining employees, He had one employee who simply wanted a good parking spot. Others want a particular schedule. He said he wants employees to “be real” and let him know their needs.