Most employers in the restaurant industry (51%) name recruiting restaurant staff as a top challenge. If finding employees wasn’t troublesome enough, retaining staff is also a huge problem. Already in 2019, turnover in the restaurant industry was reported at a staggering 75%.

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Then, following the pandemic, the situation turned from bad to worse. Between February 2020-2021, the industry took the hardest blow – nearly 3.5 million jobs in America alone became vacant.

Currently, the world is slowly recovering, and consumers are returning to restaurants. Employers’ struggles, however, didn’t end. With so many leaving jobs or being forced to do so, finding new employees seems more challenging than ever. 

But can restaurant owners do anything to find competent workers and stay afloat in the business while people are less keen on taking the jobs in such a volatile industry?

Recruiting Restaurant Staff – What Works?

Effective recruitment is a two-way street. You find qualified candidates, and they find a job that satisfies them. Unfortunately, for instance, in France, 90% of the businesses in the sector admit they often lack the time or resources to recruit effectively. 

But recruiting restaurant staff – or any staff at that – doesn’t need to be a never-ending struggle.

Perhaps it’s the methods that need an update. Sticking to CVs and cover letters is not only inefficient timewise but also doesn’t help you realistically assess a candidate’s future job performance. If you’d like to read more about alternative recruitment tools that solve these issues – have a read.

Now, let’s move on to how employers can improve efforts when recruiting restaurant staff – to speed up the process, find better quality candidates, and maximise the chances of retaining them for longer.

#1. Experience Requirements? How about assessing for soft skills instead?

Prior experience, on the surface, seems like a good asset. If a candidate worked in a similar business in the past, they’d know how to do their job for you, right? As it turns out, it’s not necessarily the case. Research proves that there’s no correlation between prior work experience (or education) and one’s future performance.

So, what else can give you a better insight into which candidate can be successful? Soft skills – as agreed by 92% of talent professionals who think they matter as much or more than hard skills.

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To efficiently assess one’s competencies, however, you’ll need to move away from CVs and adopt tools that uncover soft skills such as decision-making, attitude, or understanding of how to deal with customers.

Situational Judgment Tests (SJT) give you that option. SJTs are accessed automatically, allowing you to efficiently screen even 350+ applicants. You’ll be able to measure an applicant’s fit for the role based on how well they respond to real-life scenarios reflecting situations they’d face on the job. Moreover, you’ll save as much as 30% of the time you’d typically spend on screening.

#2. Recruit restaurant staff through referrals

Restaurants are local businesses. Thus, your candidate pool will almost certainly consist of locals and people living in the vicinity.  For many companies, hiring people from all over the world is a huge advantage. That won’t work because of the nature of your business. But you can still rely on referrals – one of your strongest advantages.

Employee referral programs have long been one of the best recruiting strategies, and for a good reason. 82% of employers say that referrals generate the best ROI, but there are even more benefits:

#3. Schedule flexibility is an ace up your sleeve

Working shifts is not for everybody. It can be physically straining and collide with your personal life. Particularly younger generations feel strongly about maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 33% of Gen Z-ers, for example, wouldn’t accept a job offer if they had no say over their schedule.  

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Although allowing schedule flexibility can be challenging with full-time employees, at least offer that for part-time workers.

When I was looking for a side-gig that’d let me focus on my other job at the same time, being able to work only in the afternoons was a significant factor. Most businesses didn’t allow that – only one was happy to accommodate my needs. The result? I stayed at the company for a long time and still recommend the place.  

#4. Present the role accurately

Working in the restaurant sector is demanding. Sometimes even more than a candidate realises. A lack of understanding of what the job entails is one of the reasons for new hires to walk away even three months after being hired. In this recent survey, over 70% of job seekers said they felt surprised about the role as it differed from what they’d been led to believe.

Don’t sugarcoat the position in your job ad. If your restaurant is a busy place and has specific challenges, make it known upfront. Even if the truth deters some candidates, it’s much more profitable for you in the long run. Not only will you get motivated candidates in your funnel, but you’ll also prevent costly mis-hires

#5. Competitive benefits will help you stand out

In the American restaurant industry, the situation is troubling. According to a survey, as many as 89% of restaurant employees state that their employer doesn’t provide them with health insurance.

In Europe, insurance is seldom an issue. That’s why it’s also not seen as a benefit per se. Thus, offer your employees attractive benefits to stand out in the market and make recruiting restaurant staff easier.

The trick is that these benefits don’t even need to be extraordinary. All you need to do is go the extra mile and show (potential) employees that you care about them.

Sometimes the ideas can be simple. Your business is in the food sector. Providing workers with beverages and a full-meal lunch for a small fee (like in the case of our Norwegian friend – Baker Hansen) should be on the top of the list if you’re still not offering it.

If your budget allows, think about a gym allowance, a stipend for commuting to work, or a possibility of upgrading to private healthcare. The options are plentiful! See what your competition offers and up that – even just a little bit. Applicants will surely take notice.

Recruiting Restaurant Staff Doesn’t Need to Be a Struggle

The restaurant industry is highly competitive. In 2018, the number of food service businesses in the EU was estimated at 890,000. All sharing at least one struggle – finding qualified staff.

Luckily, recruiting restaurant staff doesn’t need to be every employer’s constant headache. A few tweaks in your strategy – or trying alternative methods altogether – can positively impact your efforts. Save your resources and improve the quality of your hires – we can help get you through the process.

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