While we are not recruiters here at Restaurant HR Group, Inc. or Carrie Luxem LLC, many of our clients and members have communicated with us that the recruitment of quality candidates is one of the biggest challenges they are facing at this time.
As the world “opens back up”, and you are under pressure to get your restaurants staffed properly and are trying to establish a consistent pipeline of talent, it’s easy to become reliant on the old and same tactics – and you’re likely to be disappointed with these efforts.
Instead of posting an ad on the same online job board or only placing a hiring sign in the window yet again, try some (or all!) of these ideas to separate yourself from the pack and get out of that hiring rut once and for all.
Prioritize your people.
First and foremost, really focus on doing all you can to take care of your people (and this will, of course, help you retain them!).
- Pay well. Money isn’t the most important thing for many, but it certainly does matter.
- Offer benefits. Think outside the box and offer a number of benefits and perks (to both part- and full- time employees, if possible) that will help your employees live the best life possible.
- Offer development opportunities. Provide ongoing training and show each person what they will learn, what opportunities are in-store for them, and why your company is where they want to be!
- Be transparent and focus on culture. Be open, honest, and real with where you are now and where you plan to go as a company. Don’t try to copy another restaurant’s culture or be someone you’re not. Be vocal about what sets you apart and proud of who you are.
- Put your people first. Take really great care of your people. Demonstrate day in and day out what a healthy, caring, and mutually beneficial relationship between employees and an employer can look like.
- Communicate often. Before jumping to a conclusion that you need to hire more people, talk (openly and frequently) to your existing team. Do they need more hours, would they be interested in taking on more responsibility, do they have an interest in learning a new position? Sure, you may need to backfill their existing role, but this may fill certain positions you’re looking to fill – and it will also open up an opportunity for deeper engagement with your current team.
Dig deep (no deeper!) into current staff’s social circles.
Get creative with your employee referral plan and be sure to talk about it (and share the successes) often. Incentivize it by offering a gift card or paid day off for every referral who is hired and stays on at least six months. And keep this going even when you’re not in a “desperate” need to find people (get ahead of things and keep the flow coming in).
Take the time to show your entire team how to communicate the opportunities (job openings) you have and keep asking them to help. Share your online job ads or recruiting material with them and explain how they can share on their social platforms and/or ask them to chat with their friends and network about the opportunities you have within your company.
Take OFF your recruiting hat.
Recruiting doesn’t have to be so formal. As a matter of fact, it’s a whole lot better when it’s not!
Tell everyone about your restaurant(s) and company. Some of the best leads or hires can be made when you just have casual conversations. Get chatting and show your passion and enthusiasm for your brand. This alone will get people interested in learning more!
Another “non-formal” way to recruit is to seek out likeminded individuals by joining groups like Meetup or Facebook groups. Depending on your location, you may find groups centered around everything from farm-to-table cooking to veganism…not to mention, some incredibly knowledgeable people who are passionate about food.
Talented candidates are literally all around you. Don’t pass up an opportunity to strike up a conversation with strangers, your dentist, the hairdresser, or the family at the park. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn and who you can connect with.
Tell your (unique) story.
When using the popular online job boards, get creative. Everyone is saying “Now Hiring Happy Team Members” or “Now Hiring General Manager” or simply posting the job description.
Instead, tell your story.
Think about the amount of time, energy, and money spent on marketing campaigns to attract new customers.
What if you put that same effort – essentially building a marketing campaign – into finding talent?
A very successful way to hire top-notch talent comes down to brand storytelling.
Telling your company’s story in your own voice. It’s finding your unique selling proposition – the characteristics that set you apart from your competitors – and then creating your story around that.
Like maybe you’re a third-generation restaurateur, proudly carrying on your family’s recipes. Or you personally grow all of the herbs and vegetables used in the kitchen.
Whatever it is, find that special “thing.” Then use it to tell your story. Work with your marketing department, or if you need to, hire a creative agency to help you roll out this project. Ultimately, the goal is to attract active and non-active job seekers by connecting on an emotional level. This approach works because it humanizes your company – you’re no longer just a build-your-own burger joint.
Remember, people are interested in being a part of something great, something bigger than themselves. And when it comes to choosing their employers and employment, it’s no different.
Make it clear why they should become part of your company.
Then, share your story.
Now that you’ve written your story, you have to consistently share it – just as you would do in a marketing campaign for customers.
The layers of your campaign will unfold, revealing your story to prospective employees. They’ll learn where you’ve been, who you are, your culture, where you’re going, the incredible career opportunities that await, etc.
Fresh and exciting is the way to go with these campaigns. But of course, don’t stretch the truth or outright lie. Just be honest and authentic and let your brand’s story speak for itself.
Reach out to closing or relocating businesses.
Turn a negative into a positive for those who may have lost their jobs due to downsizing, layoffs, and business closures. Make contact with the businessowner to see if you can provide their departing employees with information regarding employment opportunities at your restaurant.
Don’t limit your outreach efforts to just restaurants or food-related businesses either — you can find amazing talent with the right mix of personality, attitude, and outlook anywhere.
Use mobile signs.
Use the company vehicle to attract candidates and let people know you are hiring.
Magnetic signs are an extremely cost-effective option, while vehicle wraps may be worth the investment also.
Go live on social.
Head into your restaurant, grab one of your rock-star employees and hop on a mobile app like Facebook or Instagram Live to stream a “day in the life” of employees or host a Q&A session. This one is a bold move that will require you to be on your toes, but it is also a fantastic way to showcase your restaurant and culture firsthand and is a great way to engage with prospective candidates.
Throw a hiring party!
Bring in extra staff and set-up a hiring booth on your busiest night of the week and have a Friday night (or any night) “hiring party”. Use your social media, staff members, and customers to spread the word. Offer drinks, food, and on-the-spot interviews for those who can make it in as well as handouts for customers to take to interested candidates.
Link up on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect with job-seekers (best for managers, “corporate” support staff, and leaders) and promote your brand. Write articles, start discussions, and offer tips related to everything from resume-writing to job-hunting to making a burger to building a culture (and everything in between). Incorporate videos too as this can bring you lots of exposure! The key here is to be fun, entertaining, and real.
The more you engage with others, show who you are, and let them know you’re hiring, the more likely it is they’ll think of you when they are seeking a career change or know someone who is. Consistency is essential.
Showcase your team on social (or in your restaurant).
As mentioned earlier, not all recruiting strategies have to be direct “we’re hiring” methods. Instead, finding unique ways to showcase your team, restaurant culture, and the benefits you offer can be an effective passive hiring technique.
You could start this out by creating a short video that tells your brand’s story and highlights the backgrounds/accomplishments of team members. Share this on your social media platforms and play this (if you have TVs or another way to do that) in your restaurant.
Alternatively, simply decorate a bulletin board with snapshots of the crew and their stories. Both methods provide a glimpse into the company culture and values as well as the characteristics of successful employees.
Snap your way to talent.
With options like snaps and stories, Snapchat is a versatile tool for recruiting as well as general marketing. If you already have a presence on the platform, even better. Use the stories feature to attach a video to a job ad. Just a short video compilation of employees sharing their favorite thing about the company can be extremely persuasive.
Cater to colleges (or any schools).
Volunteer to be a guest speaker, lecturer, or advisor for a local college’s culinary program. Not only will you connect with students already interested in the field, but you’ll also be top-of-mind when those individuals are seeking positions. Establishing yourself as a subject matter expert is a plus too.
Get actively involved with local primary, secondary schools, and/or colleges and universities.
Participating in Career Day, job fairs, and other educational opportunities like Junior Achievement means you can introduce students to food service careers, connect with students who are in the job market, and reinforce your restaurant’s image within the community.
Hold the phone.
If a phone customer has to be placed on hold, make the best use of this time with a prerecorded fun and entertaining “we’re hiring” message. Briefly highlight the benefits of working for the company (financial, lifestyle, professional, etc.) and direct listeners to apply on your website.
Use a text-to-apply app.
Many companies (restaurant brands and others) are using texting as a way to showcase their openings and are seeing benefits such as a fast-recruiting process (simply use phone and a code to begin the application), reaching candidates, can easily advertise in high-traffic areas of restaurant, and can give text hiring info to customers.
Here are a few companies that offer Text-to-Apply options:
Share all your excitement (and your job openings) with your fans (aka your customers).
Your customers already love you, right? Surely they will help you spread the hiring word!
Share this info in some of your marketing material, include info in their to-go orders, tell them on your social media channels, send out info in your marketing/customer newsletter, etc. etc.
Go ahead, get super creative and give them an incentive to spread the hiring word (free meals, company merchandise, and/or gift cards for example).
Tap into the military community.
Military Veterans tend to be disciplined, hard-working, loyal, and natural leaders.
There are millions (yes millions!) of service men and women out there, and their spouses, looking for great opportunities.
So where do you find these amazing men and women?
Here are a few places to start:
Distribute ‘Now Hiring’ material at charity events.
When you are out there doing amazing things and making a difference, you will no doubt meet a lot of people! Remember, most people want to be part of a company that cares and gives back to their community or the world!
This can be a perfect time to find those who care a lot and have similar values that you and your company have. Don’t forget to remind people you are always looking for amazing people, and even (if appropriate and okay with the organization you’re partnering with or volunteering for), distribute company/applying/hiring information to the people at the event.
Delegate the “recruiting function” to a star crew member or manager.
As important as staying on top of recruiting and searching for talent is, it is one thing that restaurant managers often times put on the backburner or simply struggle to find the time to do well. The way to get ahead of this is to have someone focus on it day-in and day-out. Also, you’ve done a lot of work to get candidates to apply, so the last thing you want is for them to slip away because nobody from your company reached out to them fast enough.
It’s a big commitment, and very time consuming, for sure.
Delegate this important function to a star crew member or perhaps an assistant manager. Provide them with some guidance but also empower them to get creative and think outside the box.
Hourly crew often play a “certified training” role, so why not consider having a “certified recruiter” role too! – and be sure to make all of this effort worth their time (give a pay increase, pay a bonus, provide special perks, etc.).
Consider an anniversary bonus.
One of the fun things we offer here at Restaurant HR Group is an anniversary bonus. Each year, on our company anniversary (the month and day we went into business – this day is April 16!) :) every person that works with us receives a bonus of $10 per month for each month they have been employed with us.
So, for example, if someone has been with us for 3 months on our anniversary, they get a $30 bonus, if someone has been here for 10 years, 7 months (127 months), the bonus would be $1,270.
What a fun way to incentivize people to stick it out, wouldn’t you say? ;) It’s also something a little different to highlight in the recruiting process.
Meet more people and give people chances.
If you want the best talent, stop searching for the perfect applicant, resume, or person.
It is so important to remember that experience isn’t everything.
Most skills can be taught given enough time and energy, but attitude, personality, and drive are so much harder to influence.
Too often companies let software programs weed out and eliminate candidates based on keywords, or they don’t consider someone who is unemployed, someone that had an employment gap or someone that seems too qualified (or too old) or underqualified (or too young), or a poorly designed resume or typo.
When you do this, you are definitely missing out on some potential great talent. So, get out there and talk to more people!