As vaccines continue to roll out and the country opens back up, restaurants are struggling to do the same. Sticking to take-out and curbside nowadays has less to do with safety and much more to do with the lack of staff. In fact, this time last year the industry had laid off or furloughed roughly 5.5 million workers nationally. And bringing them back has become a challenge.
One of the main reasons experts believe it’s become so hard to hire is the $300-a-week boost to unemployment benefits from the new $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Economists calculate that roughly half of unemployed Americans are temporarily making more from unemployment than they did from their jobs. Still, this boost is only for a short time (through September) and with health concerns lowering, we expect to see a large increase in available workers through the summer and fall. As a restaurant owner, here are a few things you can do to attract new employees.
START WITH REFERRALS
From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, referral programs are a major way corporate America hires. The foodservice industry should be doing the same. Owners and GMs shouldn’t just encourage, but reward employees who bring in new hires. These rewards can be anything from straightforward cash bonuses to paid time off for hourly workers to tickets to sporting events, etc. Owners can tier their incentives by offering higher rewards for harder-to-fill positions and even greater rewards if the new hire stays with the store for 6 months or a year. Using your current workforce to bring in new hires is one of the most effective ways a restaurant can recruit.
Most restaurants serve a community, and most communities have a pool to pull from. Local universities and community colleges should be large recruiting grounds for nearby restaurants. A recent Snagajob survey showed that flexible hours and scheduling were in the top three benefits a job can offer at 89% of responses. This benefit directly impacts students who need to schedule around classes, tests and breaks. Owners and GMs should be reaching out to campus recruiters with job openings. Additionally, finding employees who live close by is crucial. Studies show that restaurant workers who live within 10 miles of their job are 50% more likely to stay past six months. Finally, once you get a foot in the door with students at a university, it should make the referral program mentioned above a breeze.
REWARD THE EFFORT
Employee discounts have always been a major way to attract and retain employees. That same Snagajob survey also listed discounts in its top three benefits at 76% of responses. Still, there are scales to these discounts and ways to out-offer your competitors. Some restaurants only offer employee discounts during shifts, while others offer discounts at any time. To know that your employers value you when you’re not on the clock is huge for potential new workers. GMs and owners also know that for employees who rely on tips, not every shift is built equally. Offering free shift meals, even with a limited menu, shows employees that their time and effort are valued. Even on the slowest days, workers still leave feeling full.
WORK HERE, WORK ANYWHERE
As hard as restaurants try to retain their employees, we know sometimes people have to leave. Whether it’s because a spouse was offered a job elsewhere or a student is heading home for the summer, churn is inevitable. Yet, there is the potential that your restaurant chain has another location where that employee is relocating. Creating a relocation program with open communication between corporate and local restaurants will help employees on the move find new jobs wherever they’re settling. Larger corporations like Yum! Brands, who own several different restaurant chains such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, can help relocate employees between their different brands. You’ve spent the time and effort to train quality staff—this is one of the more effective ways to keep them in your system.
While the struggle to hire restaurant workers is ongoing, we know it won’t last. As more vaccines roll out and unemployment benefits dwindle, experts expect a large wave of available workers in the near future. Following the steps we laid out will put any restaurant ahead of the pack when it comes to recruiting the best talent.