Human resource management in food service is complex. You have to deal with a host of serious issues ranging from food safety to harassment. You also have to keep your policies enforced in an industry where employee turnover exceeds 70 percent a year.
To top it off, a restaurant is a hectic business environment. When something goes wrong, you don’t have the luxury of looking up answers or conferring with colleagues—you need to know what to do immediately.
Here are six questions every restaurant human resources manager should be able to answer without hesitation. If you can’t, you’ve got homework to do.
Where are my employee records stored?
If your answer is: “I know they’re in a file cabinet somewhere,” that’s not good enough. The federal government requires you to be meticulous in how you store and manage general employee information (resumes, W-4 forms, payroll information, disciplinary actions, training verification, etc.) and I-9 forms.
Management of employee records can be challenging—especially for restaurants with multiple franchises or locations. Human error can result in misfiling or misplaced records, and restaurant accidents can lead to potential damage to or destruction of employee paperwork. In fact, data from the U.S. Fire Administration shows that restaurant fires account for approximately $116 million in property damage each year.
But there are no excuses in a compliance audit. You need to update employee records promptly, keep records secure, and protect them from accidental destruction. Using a digital document management system will not only protect employee documentation, but it will keep your restaurant compliant and lower your operating and storage costs.
Are my employees’ I-9 forms in order?
I-9s, used to verify employee identity and authorization to work in the U.S., are important to maintain, especially since the federal government has stepped up immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made no secret of targeting food service workers.
There are several crucial things to check on your I-9s. The first is the form itself, which has undergone multiple revisions since it was introduced in 1987. Currently, only one version (Rev. 07/17/2017 N) is acceptable.
To check your forms, look at the revision date in the lower left corner of each form (not the expiration date at the top). If you store your forms electronically, there should be a field for this, so you won’t have to go through each form version.
You must also keep up with the work authorizations for non-citizens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says that when work authorization documents expire, it is the employer’s responsibility to reverify the employee’s I-9 form.
Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?
In the restaurant business, workers often quit after a short period. In fact, over 70 percent of restaurant workers leave within a year of being hired. Many restaurants also hire temporary servers during their busy seasons. Do these short-term workers qualify for unemployment benefits when they leave?
It depends. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, most state laws don’t exempt workers from benefits just because of their temporary status. Eligibility depends on a number of factors, including length of employment, earnings and reason for leaving. In some circumstances, even part-time workers may receive benefits.
You should familiarize yourself with your state’s law and keep careful track of the hours all your employees work. If a laid-off worker files an unemployment claim, you’ll want to have their information at your fingertips for review.
Are restaurant employees following food safety rules?
A CDC study found rampant violations in how restaurant employees comply with food-safety regulations. One in four workers don’t always wash their hands and more than half don’t always wear gloves when touching food.
You don’t want your restaurant to make headlines for spreading disease. But how can you get your workers to change their behaviors? Here are a few suggestions.
- Make training engaging, with lots of visuals. Encourage dialog and questions. Consider online training from StateFoodSafety, which is convenient for employees and provides certificates that document your restaurant’s emphasis on safety.
- Ask a restaurant inspector or regulator to come talk to your employees to emphasize the importance of proper food safety.
- If you notice a food-safety problem, discuss it in an employee meeting. Most people want to do the right thing, but sometimes they need to be reminded of the expectations and rules of conduct.
How does our department address sexual harassment claims?
The restaurant industry has the unwelcome distinction of being the top source of sexual harassment claims, with up to 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men reporting problems. With the #MeToo movement in full force, reputational damage from complaints could be even worse than a lawsuit.
Make sure you have a strong anti-harassment policy in place and have all managers and employees complete harassment training. More important, make sure your policy is enforced and encourage employees to speak up about unacceptable conduct from fellow restaurant workers or restaurant patrons.
Helping Restaurant HR Managers Focus on What Matters
It’s not easy being a restaurant human resource manager. You need to set policies for the thorniest situations and be prepared to enforce them at a moment’s notice.
With so much on your plate, you should take advantage of tools like online training and document storage so that you can focus on what matters most—creating a safe and positive environment for your workers and customers.
Nicole Hart is a seasoned global HR leader with over twenty years of experience. She focuses on organizational design, change management and workforce planning at Access which has 1800 employees in over 50 locations.