Executive Chef Jeremy Leinen, CEC, says Dunwoody CC believes doing less at a higher level is better than the alternative.
Everyone is aware of the staffing crisis our industry is currently dealing with. We’ve all got stories to share about how many job postings we have, how few interviews we’ve actually scheduled, and how even fewer of them actually show up for the interview. This puts a strain on all of us. Combine that with the weather getting warmer, which means golf events, graduations, weddings, the opening of our pools, etc. and things have reached the proverbial tipping point. It has been a challenging few weeks here at Dunwoody Country Club and the outlook isn’t particularly rosy at the moment. This has necessitated us making some changes as we simply can’t staff our operation the way we traditionally have. Here is an overview of a few things we’ve done to help deal with the insanity.
We’re getting more aggressive with pay rates. After doing some market research and combing through job postings to see what is being offered elsewhere, we quickly realized our pay rates weren’t competitive in the current market. Country clubs often lag behind a little with the rest of the market, but the current circumstances left us well behind the mark of where we needed to be. We went to the board and they were supportive, giving us the green light to do what we had to. Ultimately, this will necessitate adjusting the pay rates of existing employees later. This was all discussed and ultimately, it was decided that the club has to be able to operate and it takes staff to do that. The nitty-gritty of finances can be figured out later after we get through this mess.
I approached my GM and Clubhouse Manager with a plan for limited pool and Sunday brunch service as moving a cook to the pool spread us too thin. Frankly, one cook for the pool is inadequate. I normally staff the pool with 2-3 cooks. With that, brunch is back to a buffet with a la carte service not available. We’re also opening the pool with a limited menu, and being that it’s staffed by one cook working completely solo, we have a limited service period of 12-6 Wednesday through Sunday. My superiors were supportive and so were board and committee members involved in the conversation.
Another really key piece in all of this is retaining the staff we have in place. Hiring feels almost impossible lately, with very little of it happening. With that in mind, losing existing staff can’t happen if we can help it. With business picking up and being short-staffed, our employees were stretched really thin and working long days with every hour being more stressful than usual since they were having to do more. You could literally feel the tension and frustration of the staff, with it seeming like it wouldn’t take much for many of them to just up and quit.
We had to do something.
We are returning to reservations so we can cap our counts and control the flow of service. Additionally, we’ll be doing buffets during the week with no a la carte service available so we can manage service with fewer servers and cooks. We also closed the restaurant for the entire day on Tuesday of this week. This allowed us to give everyone an extra day off paid. It was a proud moment for me to be able to pull my staff together and let them know that we were doing this for them, that we appreciate their hard work and we want them to know it. I told them firmly, “The club has your back.”
It’s important to note that while the measures we’re taking are intended as being temporary, we don’t really know how long these changes will be in effect. We hope this only needs to be for a couple of weeks but the situation really hinges on staffing. As far as that goes, I had two interviews scheduled today and neither showed up. That’s been the trend lately, and it’s a big part of why we’re in this situation in the first place.
The key question in all of this is, “How is the membership reacting to these changes?” As you might expect, some good and some not so much. The Clubhouse Manager and I have had a handful of conversations with members so far asking the simple question of, “Why?” Once I’ve explained to a member that people don’t show up to interviews, or that at one point I had more ads posted than interviews scheduled, they understand it. Most seem understanding and supportive once we explain our reality to them.
In closing, it’s tough right now and it could take a while to get through this. There are ways to manage around the circumstances and if you haven’t asked, your GM and board might be more supportive than you’d expect if you go to them with a plan. There’s a bit of a paradigm shift happening, as the conversation is shifting away from what we have to offer to what we can deliver. Quality and service standards are everything, and right now doing less at a higher level is better than the alternative.