Most of us in the catering industry wear a lot of hats. We’re not just event designers—we’re recruiters, coaches, and HR managers. We handle business development, but we also tackle onboarding, training, payroll, and scheduling.
All of those staffing-related tasks can add up—and eat up hours in the day you can’t afford to lose.
I’ve been there. At Catered Too!, I oversaw 70 full-time staff, managed three museum cafes, and fed up to 1500 people per day lunch across Silicon Valley. On top of that, I hired and trained all my own staff. In the spring of 2018, I set out to find a way to win my time back.
Here are a few ways I’ve learned to save my precious time, and how you can, too.
1. Project your staffing needs upfront.
Saving time with staffing starts with a plan. I created a formula to help me staff each event using a ratio of core staff to on-call staff. Once I know each event’s location, logistics, size, and production needs, I apply the ratio to figure out how many full-time people I need and how many on-call staff I need. This helps ensure I have the right amount of staff and the right amount of equipment, every time.
2. Focus recruitment efforts on your core team and build a roster of part-time, on-call staff.
When it comes to recruiting and hiring, a big time-saver for me was hiring fewer full-time people and tapping more on-call professionals.
For my core team, I focus on recruiting top managers and event directors. They can handle the upfront work, then manage the on-call staff for the event. The rest of the team is part-time and on-call staff through Instawork. I’ve tried staffing agencies in the past without a lot of success, but Instawork is really reliable and helps us streamline our on-call staffing a ton.
Tip: Be proactive about recruitment efforts. Host mixers and events to put yourself out there and show off what you’re about. It attracts people to work for us rather than us having to spend time getting people in.
3. Keep interviews high-touch, but streamline vetting and screening with technology where you can.
A lot goes into recruiting and screening if you’re doing it yourself: coordinating and evaluating test jobs, calling references, reviewing work histories, and gathering word of mouth reviews. Once you have a shortlist, you don’t want to rush the interview process—but you need quality people, fast.
I trimmed time here in two ways. First, having on-call staff pre-vetted through Instawork saved a ton of time. They can match us to qualified workers, and worker profiles make spotting the people we need easy by putting everything in one place: experience, expertise, referrals, and reviews. Then, we put everyone through a “work three events” trial period to see their work ethic, attitude, and abilities first-hand.
It’s better than an interview alone, and keeps things moving.
4. Have a good system to get (and give) feedback.
You can’t be everywhere at once, which is why it’s so important to have a great system for hearing how everyone does on the job. After each event, Catered Too! event leads or managers use a report card to grade each staff member. This can help you spot (and reward) top people, give better constructive feedback, and constantly improve—something we’re all striving for.
Tip: With Instawork, the feedback loop is even tighter. We rate on-call staff after each event, let them know how they’ve done, and flag top people, who get first access to upcoming shifts. Another bonus? Workers on Instawork can grade you, too, which I’ve found helps me up my game.
5. Prioritize retention.
Retention is a long-game effort, but so important because filling critical holes can be time-consuming. A couple of ways I keep my people happy? I offer plenty of growth opportunities and promote from within. Promoting into your ‘core team’ can help foster loyalty and create a real sense of family.
And, I always keep an eye out for burnout. Supplementing our core team with high-quality on-call professionals gives our full-time people a break from double shifts and long weeks.
6. Get better about timesheets and payroll.
Tasks related to sign-in sheets, onboarding, time tracking, W2s, and payroll can add up. Whether you’re using a payroll service or doing it on your own, when you’ve got a full-time staff and on-call roster it can feel like double work.
For Catered Too!, using Instawork doesn’t just make it easier to calculate time worked and pay on-call workers—it’s more affordable than payroll services we’ve used in the past.
What Will You Accomplish With The Time You Win Back?
When you’re able to streamline staffing tasks, chances are you’ll have more time to focus on the things you love: experimenting more, connecting with clients, and creating culture in your company.
But you’ll also find more time to grow—and the ability to say “yes” to more jobs without wondering how you’ll get it all done. I hope these tips help you win back some hours in your day, and set your business up for success.
For more information on Instawork and its product offerings, please visit www.instawork.com.