Restaurant Operators Share Tips on Overcoming Staffing Issues, Labor Shortages

Restaurants are used to challenges – staffing issues and labor shortages being chief among them.

In this Bar & Restaurant round-up, we asked restaurant owners and experts for tips on overcoming this critical challenge.

Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti – Philadelphia, Pa.

Rosita Lamberti, director of operations for Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti in Philadelphia, Pa., said their focus over the last two years has been employee retention. They took care to ensure that their hourly non-tipped staff was paid a fair living wage, and they also kept check on their hourly tipped employees to ensure that their wages were fair as well.Lamberti also decided to remain closed one day a week – even through their busier summer season.

“We have always done our best to create an inviting atmosphere for our staff, and [we] make sure to have open communication with our team, especially during this time of ever-changing COVID mandates,” said Lamberti.

They also made some investments over last two years, including a new, user-friendly POS system with a large amount of handheld devices, to help minimize their staff’s workload.

Churrascaria Plataforma – New York, N.Y.

Ricardo Abreu, director of marketing at Churrascaria Plataforma in New York, N.Y., said that as there is less staff working, many jobs have been combined, requiring managers and employees to handle tasks in multiple departments and at multiple times. “We are making sure the guest experience is not affected by this. We are only taking a certain number of reservations per night to support this,” he shared.

Churrascaria Plataforma – New York N.Y.
Churrascaria Plataforma – New York, N.Y. (Photo: Courtesy of Churrascaria Plataforma)

Osteria and Amici Hospitality – Philadelphia, Pa.

Jeff Michaud, chef/owner at Osteria and Amici Hospitality in Philadelphia, Pa., said in the hospitality business, turnover has always been high but with these current conditions, it is out of the norm.

“You have to create conditions that make our team want to be there or that entices them to join you,” explained Michaud. “Empower them to take ownership of their position or future positions within your company.”

GLU Hospitality – Philadelphia, Pa.

Derek Gibbons, owner/managing partner of GLU Hospitality in Philadelphia, Pa., said at the current moment – and during the majority of the  COVID-19 pandemic – they averted the labor shortage by staying ahead of consumer trends and putting their employees first.

“We have also implemented technology when possible to streamline service for our guests, and try to hedge against any possible labor issues; for example – QR ordering and kiosks,” said Gibbons. “Another strategy we have deployed is allowing our employees to work at multiple concepts of ours. I believe this keeps our employees happy by having a change of scenery every now and again, and gives them the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills in this industry by working in different roles.”

GLU Hospitality also started partnerships with local universities and their hospitality management schools, to help employ students interested in pursuing careers in hospitality.

Union Sushi & Steak, The Baylander, Southampton Social Club – Southampton, N.Y.

Ian Duke, owner of Union Sushi & Steak, The Baylander, Southampton Social Club and others in Southampton, N.Y., said the pandemic made the staffing issue more difficult. In the Hamptons, they had a larger crowd of residents remaining during the off season than in the years before.

Now, POS systems enable guests to do it all at their tables. Duke is preparing to utilize this in the coming busy season on their outdoor lawn at Union Burger Bar. He believes this system will reduce staffing levels by 20 to 25 percent and increase the restaurant’s overall efficiency."

The old ways of hiring just aren’t cutting it anymore,” said Duke. “Simply placing an ad, attending a job fair or hoping the kids from the local school are going to come look for summer work – they’re just not coming, certainly not like they used to.”

One of the best ways to solve the issue of staffing, Duke shared, is to utilizing current staff to recruit family/friends as it ensures that the new employee[s] have a similar mindset and work ethic as your current staff.

The Recipe of Success – Westport, Conn.

Mark Moeller, the owner/president of The Recipe of Success in Westport, Conn. – a national restaurant consulting firm – said automation is the primary answer. “A streamlined staff – read fewer and more nimble staff – with the right technology and training can be incredibly effective,” he said. “The next-gen employee grew up with an iPhone in their hand. They can adjust quickly to the kitchen because of that.”

Moeller’s other advice:

  • Write better job descriptions and ads, making it easier for potential candidates to understand the position you are trying to fill. Small changes in language can make a difference.
  • Calling people to arrange interviews can help prevent ghosting.
  • Take a look at different sources for staffing. For example, the DOL can connect employers with veterans and other target groups. 

Civetta Hospitality – New York, N.Y.

James Mallios, managing partner of Civetta Hospitality in New York, N.Y. – a restaurant group that includes Amali in Manhattan and Bar Marseille in the Rockaways – said he started at Calissa in Water Mill last June 2020 by adding an 18 percent administrative fee to all guest checks.  The administrative fee would go towards paying his employees a meaningful, livable wage. As a result, he was able to guarantee staff wages at two to four times the minimum wage and retain his entire staff of close to 40 for over a year amidst a pandemic.

He's now taking this administrative fee to N.Y.C., which no one has done to date, adding on an 18 percent fee at Amali in Midtown and Bar Marseille in Queens, in lieu of tipping and to cover all added operating expenses. Also, 95 percent of his employees are paid between $20 to $55 per hour, depending on a variety of factors, and he has maintained 40 to 50 employees (essentially all) since June 2020.

“Restaurants need a future where they can legally pay their employees and colleagues the same as every other business, based on seniority, merit and the quality of one’s work, not based on the time of year or hoping for the generosity of strangers,” said Mallios. “This model has allowed my restaurant group to ensure greater parity and reduce the gross disparity between the front and back of the house compensation.”

Mojo Coffee – Burnet, Texas

Austin Moon, owner of Mojo Coffee in Burnet, Texas, said they’ve broken down solving staff issues into three categories – short-term, long-term and experiential. For resolving in the short term, Mojo Coffee offers cash financial incentives to their employees for successful referrals; they solicit and recruit customers that meet the mark and leverage social media to post about openings.

Their longer-term solution is to build a work environment that is as invested into their employees’ personal success as possible. They do this with group Life Skills webinars, having an upward mobility track, and providing one-on-one coaching. On the experiential side, they do trips (Cancun, a ski trip, float trips), rent movie theaters, organize skydiving jumps, give away concert/Broadway tickets, etc.

“If there is a labor shortage in our industry, then to win the best staff you must be the better place to work,” said Moon. “As business owners, we are not going to be able to control the labor shortage, but we can control our reaction to it.”

Qwick – Phoenix, Ariz.

Jamie Baxter, CEO of Qwick, a staffing app for restaurants and other hospitality businesses in Phoenix, Ariz., said owners and operators are turning to methods, such as contracting on-demand gig workers to supplement their personnel. “This new availability offers food and beverage professionals flexibility and consistency in their schedules with higher wages, while the shift-filling strategy helps hospitality owners and operators meet labor demand peaks,” he said.

Toast – Boston, Mass.

Aman Narang, president and co-founder of Toast in Boston, Mass., said they are seeing many restaurants restructure their front of house by combining traditional touchpoints of hospitality, along with the efficiency of digital tools. “By putting ordering and payment technology in the hands of guests, servers can focus on more rewarding roles, like welcoming guests, helping them choose the right menu items, checking in, and not having to spend time swiping credit cards,” Narang said.

“Digitizing the more cumbersome aspects of restaurant management creates a more positive experience for staff and guests alike.”

Narang added that restaurants of all sizes should be able to pay employees a fair wage and provide a better work experience, noting that owners need to offer faster access to pay and a better employee experience for a more efficient team of loyal staff members.

Erin Flynn Jay is a reporter and publicist based in Philadelphia. She’s a Bar & Restaurant contributor, and some of her other writing credits include Next Avenue and Woman’s World, among many others.

Plan to Attend or Participate in
Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023

To learn about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the bar, restaurant and hospitality industry, plan to attend Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:

Veronica Gonnello
​(for companies A to G)
​e: [email protected]
​p: 212-895-8244

​Tim Schultz
​(for companies H to Q)
​e: [email protected]
​p: (917) 258-8589

Fadi Alsayegh​
(for companies R to Z)
​e: [email protected]
p: 917-258-5174

​Also, be sure to follow Bar & Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram for all the latest industry news and trends.