With states easing COVID restrictions and restaurant occupancy rules relaxing, many owners and operators are looking to build, or rebuild, their staff to accommodate renewed and increasing demand from patrons. Hiring in the restaurant industry has become a challenge, and regardless of reason—higher unemployment benefits or increased hiring in competing industries—it’s important to take a close look at your current staff and needs to find the best, qualified individuals. Whether you’re looking to fill a single server position or 50, hiring practices are shifting in the wake of COVID—here’s a look at some of the best ways to navigate these changes.
Calculate the value of adding staff
Begin by asking the obvious question, “Is my current model working?” While we can’t predict exactly what post-COVID dining trends will look like, we do know that 15% of consumers plan to order carryout more often than dining in. Many restaurants are most successful offering only takeout and delivery, or those options with a limited dine-in plan. Take stock of the other establishments in your area: if they aren’t seeing long waits and multiple turns of full rooms, do you believe you will?
If the answer is maybe or a definitive no, consider keeping your staff tight and reducing your lowest earning hours to increase profitability. On the other hand, if you find that your wait times are steadily increasing, leaving money outside of your doors isn’t an option—you must hire. Don’t put out the sign just yet. Before you begin hiring in an employee market you need to develop a cost of acquisition threshold. In other words, you should have a good grasp on the value each staff member brings to the business and what you can afford in terms of acquiring and retaining them as an employee.
Promote from within
If you’re in the position to hire, it’s important to assess your current staff and evaluate their potential for promotion. Promoting a qualified staff member has two major benefits: the individual already knows your business, which not only means that there would be less training and staff disruption, but also that he/she feels a sense of connection and personal responsibility towards your brand.
Consider employees for roles different than their current positions based on individual strengths. For example, a food runner may not have serving experience, but she has in-depth knowledge of the menu, table numbers, and will acclimate much faster than a new hire. You may also find that promotion from within widens your options for hiring. It is much easier to find and hire entry-level employees as opposed to more skilled staff positions.
Referrals and bonuses
When hiring, one of the best things to do is leverage your current network and staff for referrals. While this is normal practice, in the current market you may want to sweeten the deal for employees whose recommendations lead to qualified hires.
Creating a strong bonus offer using your cost of acquisition threshold is the first step. For example, you could offer every referral and resulting new hire a $100 bonus after the first month and another $250 after 6 months. While these seem like large amounts to pay upfront, if you consider that the bonuses are being paid over the course of a 30-hour work week, then you are increasing the cost of an employee by less than a dollar an hour if they stay the full 6 months and that extra cost will decrease every shift after the initial 6 months.
Bonuses can be especially effective for enticing qualified back-of-house (BOH) employees who do not typically receive tips. The goal in hiring for any particular position is longevity—high staff turnover can be disruptive and may cost you money in the long run. To avoid this, make sure that your bonuses are drawn out over time, which keeps your risk low and the employees’ opportunity to continually earn more, high.
Sell the job
Before you dust off your old ad for line cooks and repost, consider that in the current environment, you’ll want to really sell your establishment to find the best, most-qualified applicants. While bonuses are great clickbait, writing an engaging, clear job description is more important than ever. State clearly how you value and reward your current staff when writing/updating your ads. Do you give free meals during each shift? Offer flexible schedules or the ability to work overtime? Consider asking your staff why they love working at your restaurant and incorporate the best responses into your posting.
If the open position includes tips with pay, be sure to include the average tipped value that people in those positions make weekly. While their base pay may be minimum wage, servers, hosts, and even bussers typically make much more when tips are included. These small additions can make the difference between a forgettable job post and a standout listing.
Pay for placements
Once you’ve written a great job listing, you may post on sites like Craigslist, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Facebook. Consider investing extra to promote your listing, which ensures that your ad receives top billing when candidates perform related searches. Ideally, you want the most eyes possible on your posts—a helpful way to build a large, diverse candidate pool. Posting on other, lesser-known sites may also help.
The three sites above offer hospitality-focused job boards.
Remember to post any position openings on your website and social media channels as well, a customer who loves your brunches may just be your next hire. Also, if writing isn’t your strong suit, be sure to have an extra set of eyes review your posting for grammatical errors, as an error-filled posting may raise red flags for potential applicants. Budgeting a small amount for a copywriter to craft engaging copy is always a great idea—upwork.com is a great option for hiring skilled writers for projects of any length.
Staff hiring can be a challenge, and COVID has created a new normal in the restaurant industry, but careful consideration of your establishment’s staffing needs and a look at best hiring practices can help you find the qualified staff you need to keep your restaurant running well!
Be sure to regularly visit our free resource section dedicated to navigating the constantly changing foodservice industry. There, you’ll find informative articles, e-tools, and restaurant guides.