That means that your team always has to be “on” and ready with a smile. They must keep a positive attitude, always prepared to counter frustration with patience and chaos with calm. It’s a formidable challenge to ensure that diners receive unparalleled service and that team members uphold uncompromising standards.
For service staff who are working parents, the stress of navigating the demands of home and work life can quickly become overwhelming. This is why it is incumbent upon business leaders to be proactive in supporting employees who are also parents. Not only will this nurture the well-being of the employee, but it will also benefit your guests, your company, and your entire team.
Providing Child-Care Assistance
One of the greatest challenges that parents working in the service industry can face is finding quality child care. Because these workers often face long, unpredictable, and erratic work schedules, they frequently find themselves scrambling to make last-minute arrangements with the babysitter. They may struggle to find a caregiver willing to take a late-night or weekend shift — when demand at restaurants is typically at its peak.
Unfortunately, scheduling is only half the battle. The average cost of child care, particularly when a caregiver is asked to work outside of standard hours, may well be higher than what a service worker makes in wages and tips per shift. That means that sometimes it makes more financial sense for the employee to leave the industry entirely.
Thus, assisting your staff with child care isn’t just going to help your employee, but it’s also likely to significantly reduce turnover in your organization. If you are fortunate enough to have the space, then converting a section of your facility into an on-site child-care center can be an ideal way to support and retain your employees who are parents. It can also be a major selling point when you’re looking to attract new talent.
If this is not an option for your restaurant, then offering financial support in the form of child-care stipends and credits may be your best alternative. This is especially true if you are able to negotiate a partnership agreement with local child-care centers offering extended hours and flexible scheduling for shift workers with unpredictable schedules.
Managing Financial Burden
It’s also important to remember that child-care expenses are far from the only major financial burden your employees may be carrying as they attempt to remain in the service industry while parenting. For instance, with rising fuel costs and inflation, the costs of commuting from home to work to daycare are likely prohibitive. Commuting stipends can help reduce some of the financial stressors your employees are facing and incentivize retention.
A significant proportion of service workers are single mothers, many of whom live below the poverty level. In addition to ordinary living expenses, single working
mothers are likely to face other substantial expenditures. For instance, many find themselves in litigation over child custody arrangements or child support enforcement. Opportunities for paid time off and flex-work scheduling to accommodate attorneys’ meetings and court appearances, as well as financial assistance with legal fees, may be the most effective and motivating benefit you can offer employees facing such challenging circumstances.
Mental Health Support
In addition to financial support and flexible work schedules, working parents in the service industry will also benefit greatly from access to robust mental healthcare. This might include, for instance, benefits packages that cover the gamut of psychiatric care services, such as reproductive psychiatry for women experiencing fertility challenges or postpartum depression.
Mental health benefits should also encompass behavioral health, such as substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation. By promoting holistic wellness among your employees, with a particular emphasis on restaurant-wide mental health, you’re not only enhancing your team members’ overall quality of life, but you’re also supporting their productivity and performance while reducing the risk of burnout, illness, and injury.
Making It Work
Integrating all of the above benefits into employee-care protocol is a tall order. Restaurateurs are already endeavoring to operate on incredibly tight margins, not to mention the lingering impacts of both the pandemic and the supply chain crisis.
There are precious few resources to spare. However, you don’t have to eat the elephant all at once. Instead, the systematic and strategic addition of one benefit at a time may well be the best approach, enabling you to increase the amount of support your employees with children receive without doing so much so quickly that you jeopardize the business and the rest of the team.
A comprehensive benefits package offering the full array of support services described here can be your ultimate target goal. Making use of SMART goals to create small, incremental milestones can help you get there. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These components allow you to break down parenting benefits into attainable sections. Further, you can track how these changes are benefiting your workforce.
After all, every benefit can be expected to result in a measurable improvement in retention, productivity, and performance. These improvements can then be leveraged to activate other benefits down the line. With each parent-friendly incentive you offer, you’re not only going to cultivate better and more loyal employees. You’re also going to recruit the most desirable candidates who will see your restaurant as an employer of choice for working parents.
Parents who work in the service industry are among the most dedicated and hardest-working people around. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need the support of leadership. To give your employees the tools they need to thrive, it’s imperative for business owners to offer a host of benefits, from child-care stipends to mental health coverage. Doing so won’t just help the employee, it will also greatly enhance your team and your company — an enhancement that your guests, too, will notice, appreciate, and reward.
Written by Jori Hamilton.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. Like any freelancer worth her salt, she's spent many years working
in restaurants and loves the industry with a passion. When she isn't writing, you can find her at home with her cats and houseplants.
Click here to read more of her work or find her on Twitter @hamiltonjori
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