How To: Cope With Staff Shortages

Business Tips

Australia’s supply of skilled labour has dwindled ever since the closing of international borders in March 2020, and hospitality businesses are by no means the only ones suffering. In fact, “85% of Australian businesses report that staff shortages are holding back their ability to operate at full capacity" according to the Australian Financial Review.

A job seekers market means longer hours for venue owners, reduced operating hours and/or days and having to accomodate for part time/flexible workers. Even venues lucky enough to have all full-time positions filled such as Precinct37 admit that “You still feel the staff shortages when people call in sick”, says Leo, owner of the Annandale cafe.

We've spoken to some venues and compiled a list of 8 things that you can do to combat staff shortages and better adapt to trying times.

Encourage career progression by cross-training your staff

With recent times giving venue owners lemons, some have managed to turn them into lemonade - at times, what you need, is right there in front of you: utilising your current team can prove to be rewarding for both parties involved.

“Cross-training on skills has seen leadership from people that had been previously very quiet - there’s also much more responsibility for younger, inexperienced team members and they have really stepped up.”  – Shai, The Boatbuilders Yard

Getting staff trained across multiple areas of the business provides venue’s with the flexibility to adapt to changes in shifts based on how quiet or busy it is whilst also helping staff develop valuable skills. This, in turn, reminds them of the opportunity for growth and promotion within your business.

Focus on your most popular products

Reconsider your menu and what you sell (even temporarily!) by cutting out less sought after options to enable your staff to focus on perfecting popular products.

Once you identify these, try to have them as pre-prepared as possible - this allows for small businesses to adopt the same operational strategies of large scale players. Replacing the more manual tasks such as preparing cocktails with purchasing pre-batched mixes can prove to be very time-effective.

“Efficiency is key, with fewer staff members everything needs to be oversimplified for 2 main reasons: speed of service and less margin for error. As an example, 90% of the cocktails on our menus are purchased already pre-batched.”  – Vince, T M Group

Nurture your online presence

Today's climate means that job seekers are being spoilt for choice and can afford to be picky when deciding which positions to apply for.

Even for venues with a strong online presence and active socials, one employee review can be an absolute dealbreaker. In fact, a recent Indeed survey found that ‘one negative employee review would prevent 55% job seekers from applying for a position entirely’. 

It’s therefore, as imperative as ever for businesses to ensure that their online brand image isn’t negatively impacting their recruitment and hiring strategy.

A proactive approach to this is to, of course, urge your current employees to leave positive reviews. If they’ve stuck around, chances are; they’re pretty happy! Happy employees rarely take to the internet to rant, in comparison to those who have had a negative experience. Generating more of these can play a big part in the desirability and perception of your business for future employees. 

Look after your staff

Shock (we know) - it's easier said than done.

In an industry with low profit margins as well as minimum wages and produce prices rising, it can be a difficult thing to dedicate time and/or money on going the extra mile or building up work culture. However, putting in that extra bit of effort with staff can really change the course of your overall employee retention.

“We don’t have a high turnover; most of our chefs and barista’s have been with us for 3-4 years, which is rare. I think it’s mostly because we look after them and so they show us more patience when things are hard and we have to drop a few shifts here and there. Even when we closed and just did take away, we were still doing something to keep them connected like sending out care packages” says Sydney cafe owner, Dylan of Dirty Red, who currently has 18 long-term staff.

The Boatbuilders Yard in Victoria also emphasises how much introducing team events boosted morale. “Something as simple as closing early at the end of the week to wind down together over leftover stock has really improved culture from within”. 

You can bet that these small efforts won’t go unnoticed!

Digitise your ordering with Foodbomb

Digitising your business is crucial in keeping up in these unprecedented times. Removing outdated processes and streamlining your ordering with our smarter ordering solution halves ordering time, every single day. The more time you and your staff have, the less pressure you will feel from the effects of a vacant role.

"Dealing with 14 suppliers and each of their respective ordering and support resolution processes was both time consuming and confusing. It meant that the business had to manage a significant administrative workload. With Foodbomb, we save 1.5 hour in admin time per day, per venue." - James from Rusty Rabbit.

Integrate your accounting

Whether you outsource your accounting or use your own precious hours to reconcile invoices, integrating your Xero with Foodbomb will revolutionise these archaic processes for your staff and venue.

Venue owners typically handle their accounting by: 

  1. Managing the books themselves via an accounting platform which increases chances of human error and is likely to take up to 4 hours every week resulting in 170 hours of accounting a year.
  2. Outsourcing to a bookkeeper/accountant to help with the input and classification of wholesale produce costs into the venue’s accounting platform. This still takes up the venue’s time due to having to collate and send out paper receipts and costs on average between $4,000 and $8,000 a year.

“We use Xero and the integration with Foodbomb is super seamless; we really don’t have to worry about anything. It itemises everything for us and handles any refunds and credits, so we got rid of our bookkeeper and now do all of our bookkeeping in house!.” - Kirsty from A Plated Affair Catering

Focus on capacity

Focusing on the capacity your available staff have, and basing your customer occupancy on this, rather than trying to operate at 100%, will mean that your staff aren’t overworked and processes will run more smoothly. This could include reducing operating hours such as closing early on quieter week nights, or shutting during the day after a lunch rush to give your staff time to rest.


I'd recommend basing your customer levels from the available staff you’ve got instead of trying to operate at 100%.”  – Jake, Bright Brewery

Another way to do this is by introducing a reservation system; which is especially important for larger venues. A booking system will limit the number of walk-ins and in turn, allow you to be better prepared and reduce pressure on staff to keep all guests happy while they wait for a table.

Digitise your operational processes  

Streamlining your operations doesn't have to be overwhelming or costly. By introducing small but strategic changes to your operations, you can make a significant difference in reducing pressure on your staff and allowing you to do more with less.

“New tech solutions are evolving fast and staying ahead in that department is crucial as much as bringing the focus back to staff members and work conditions to ensure staff retention” – T M Group

Companies such as me&u and Mr.Yum are helping venues handle capacity issues as well as the logistics of ever-changing menus to accomodate for substitutions in the current food shortage climate.

"We can edit menus within 10 seconds for 80% of our seating which is in the courtyard because that's where we use me&u" - Dylan from Dirty Red

We hope that by implementing some of the above, your venue can feel a little respite from the challenges hospo is being faced with.

Already using Foodbomb and want to discuss further options for your venue? Reach out to your Foodbomb Growth Manager. 

To learn more about Foodbomb click here or sign up today. 


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