Running on skeleton crew?

How to create a menu that wows with less people to put it together

Who would have thought that after multiple lockdowns and restrictions, staff shortages would prove to be the hospitality industry’s greatest challenge in 2022? The fast-spreading Omicron variant has left thousands of restaurants, cafes and other foodservice venues short-handed as workers test positive or need to self-isolate as a close contact. 

This is only made worse as a fraction of the usual number of international students and migrant workers have been allowed back into the country. Most venues are now taking each day as it comes, assessing at the last minute if they will only open for a particular mealtime (or at all) as their staff numbers dwindle. We’ve also heard reports of restaurants resorting to poaching workers from other venues with offers of higher pay (one of Sydney’s top resataurants, Rockpool Bar & Grill is paying dishwashers $90 an hour on Friday and Saturday nights “and we still can’t get them”, said executive chef Corey Costelloe).

Many owner operators have been forced back into the kitchen to keep the doors open while many businesses are persisting with half the amount of staff they’d normally have. Unfortunately, customer demand has not changed and many are expecting the same level of service despite the severe lack of staff. 

So what can you do to get a high quality meal on the table, quickly and efficiently without the need for extra kitchen staff? We’ve got some tips and tricks to get you through this tough time… 

First up: warn customers

This may seem like a strange place to start, but managing expectations is incredibly important if you have impatient customers. Consider a sign or asking them directly as they order food if they don’t mind waiting slightly longer than usual as you are running with limited staff. Most people will be very understanding if you mention it to them up front rather than waiting for them to get upset.

Consider quick to table solutions 

You may not have bought pre-made items before, but that was then, and now you’re running a whole kitchen with only one qualified cook. Consider adding premade items to your inventory. This is a particularly good strategy at breakfast where you can save a huge amount of time and still plate up spectacular dishes with the help of premade pancakes, for example, or English muffins. Our whole range of breakfast products are delivered frozen and quick to thaw, so if you have to cancel your breakfast service at the last minute you don’t have to throw out hundreds of dollars of fresh bread. 

Stop making everything yourself

At the start of the pandemic, everyone was making their own sourdough, including cafes and restaurants. Now, some simply don’t have the time. You should consider outsourcing your most time consuming processes as much as you can. We know it may break your heart, but the home made relishes can take a back seat for a while and you can serve authentic, hand moulded sourdough without cultivating your own starter. 

Reduce your menu

If you’re still running the same menu you were serving when you had triple the staff, consider paring it back to just the customer-favourites. That way your kitchen staff can be more efficient, without having to manage as many different moving parts. Similarly, consider using some products across multiple offerings. The haloumi with your bacon and egg roll? It can also be offered as an extra on your grab-and-go salad. Similarly the brisket you used yesterday for dinner service would make a great burger the following day. 

Adjust your pricing

In November, the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of Australia warned that consumers would need to prepare their wallets for increased menu prices in the new year due to the rising costs of goods, combined with businesses struggling to find workers. Don’t be afraid to put this warning into practice. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, of course you need to raise your prices. Just ensure you communicate with your customers why this is happening and have an open and honest discussion, the good ones will appreciate it.

Related Products



Golden Pancakes

Code: 9066

  • no-artifical
Tip Top

Tip Top

English Muffins

Code: 9328

  • no-artifical