The hiring crisis doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon, but you can win the game by adopting a better hiring strategy. (Image: EyeSpy CC)


When is the last time you went to a restaurant where there was NOT a hiring sign hanging around the door? Small businesses everywhere are struggling to brave the storm. Unfortunately, in the near term, the staffing crisis facing the restaurant business is here to stay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the hospitality and food services sector have job vacancies over 1.25 million (larger than any other industry). The message is clear: Restaurant leaders need to get creative and adapt to this new employee market – and fast. 


So as a restaurant operator, how do you adapt to a job market that has been rocked by a Pandemic and continues to be pounded daily by the “turnover tsunami?” Well, by being more competitive than the other guy and matching employees job expectations.


What Employees are Looking For

A Livable Wage and Steady Paycheck: With consumer prices rising 5.4% since 2020, many employees in the job market today feel the wages are just too low. And workers are less likely to accept jobs that don’t cover their bills or skimp on hours to avoid providing benefits. This includes training time. If the new hire finds out that they won’t be earning tips or paid their full wage until they’ve completed an extensive amount of training they are also more likely to leave in the first three days of employment. 


Work Flexibility: Employees everywhere are looking for a better work/life balance. And with an appealing Work From Home (WFH) model many employers offer these days, it can be hard to get on-site employees. That’s why restaurant employers who are more flexible around scheduling have better luck hiring. Offer flexibility and clear communication with potential hires for better results.


Create a Positive Culture: Employees want to feel safe, heard, and respected in their workplace. Creating a team through a good work culture development program increases retention and will be felt by potential hires walking through the door. 


How to Attract New Restaurant Employees

Another piece of the applicant attraction process is the methodology you use. We encourage a few different methods: 


1. Create a Referral Program. Did you know employees that are referred by other employees are 3X more likely to stay with you and 50% more engaged! A referral program can find great applicants that stay with you a while. 

2. Divide & Conquer. Split hiring resources between website hiring platforms, like Indeed and Google Careers. Create a referral program, and use direct messaging (like in-store signage).  

3. Use Your Reputation. Attracting employees with a great reputation can highly effective – and it’s normally free. Differentiate yourself from the restaurant across the street and the other job opportunities – raise wages and lower entrance requirements. 


How to Filter Out Bad Applicants

No matter how desperate you feel for new hires you can’t just settle for “warm bodies.” No shows can be worse than no hire at all, so make sure you hire the right candidate to begin with. Look for these tell-tell signs during a restaurant employee interview:


  • Do they want the job? Will they fit into the culture you’re creating? Did the candidate say hello to other employees as he walked through the restaurant? Did they pick up trash? Look for candidates that want to take ownership and make a difference.
  • Did the applicant make eye contact? Smile at you, customers?


How to Hire & Keep Good Restaurant Employees

1. Selection. Selection. Selection. Don’t hire in desperation, bad employees can dramatically (and negatively) affect your culture and operations.

2. Hire Fast. Since so many places are hiring, the time you have to offer a job to the candidate before they become employed elsewhere is shorter than ever. (The average job seeker is on the market for 3 days.) Don’t let them walk across the street. Make a conditional hire on the spot for the right candidate. 

3. Fire Faster. It happens, we thought they were gonna work out and then…When you realize an employee is not a good choice, terminate them immediately. Before they impact the team, your operations, etc.

4. Keep Them Engaged. Create a sense of belonging for new hires – from the interview to the first day they walk in the door, focus on the welcome, orientation, on boarding – make them a part of the family. If you don’t, the hire might quit in the first 3 days and start looking again. They have plenty of options.


Keep employees engaged with active communication. Check in often with your new employees. Learn their names. Do daily checks with them, ask how it’s going. Use the rally alley, coach someone up in the moment, but above all, engage them. Find the time to give feedback and create accountability – and get back too having fun!


Operational development is important not only to the health of your business but to your staff that helps keep it open. Invest in the human element of your business and you’ll reap the benefits, tenfold.

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