Finding great restaurant employees is tough. And in today’s labor market, it’s harder than ever. Too many of us know someone who’s had to decrease their restaurant hours or close their lobby early (keeping only the drive-thru open) because they were understaffed. It tanks the customer experience and hits your bottom line hard.
Keeping your restaurant fully staffed is a top priority. And, if you’re like most general managers or business owners, you don’t have the luxury of a company recruiter who knows all the tricks of the trade and can find employees when the need arises. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be inventive. There are several ways you can find great employees. In fact, most are often overlooked (by your competitors too!) and are low cost or free.
1. Strike up casual conversations with strangers
As odd as this might sound, good employees can literally be found everywhere—in the grocery store, at the movie theater or while in line to renew your driver’s license. As you talk to people and notice that they have qualities that would make them a great fit for your team, ask if they’re looking for work. If they say yes, let them know you own/manage the greatest restaurant in the area and would like to schedule a formal interview if they’re interested.
2. Attend events other than job fairs
Job fairs don’t always work. They’re often great for networking with other businesses, but finding new employees in this environment can be really hard. A job fair is not as relaxed as, say, a social event like a Facebook group or a Meetup. Attending a gaming event or meeting up with fellow hikers on a trail can put you in the right place. And when people are more relaxed, they are their truer selves, which creates an opportunity for both of you to candidly talk about career goals and aspirations.
3. Stay in contact with professors and mentors
College is a wonderful place to find eager, hardworking people who could be a benefit to your business. If you have ever taken classes yourself, you likely have a favorite professor or two who could let you know if they recently learned of someone looking for work. And mentors can be more trade-specific and diverse. Their knowledge of people in need of work is priceless.
4. Keep information of employees whom you didn’t hire the first time
Just because they didn’t make the first cut doesn’t mean that they should be forgotten. If you have an open role and a few applications on file from people you didn’t hire because you had only one opening at the time, reach out to those applicants. It could be great timing for both of you. Before you reach out, make sure that you left things on professional terms the last time you spoke.
5. Use employee referral in an all-new way
One of the best recruiting methods you can possibly have is an employee referral program. Most referral programs today are pitched as “refer your friends and family members”—and that’s great. But, what if you deployed your team to actively scout talent? Incentivize them to bring in new applicants.
6. Advertise where your best candidates go
Rent a billboard near your restaurant. Not only will you advertise your business, but you can also get word of your job opening out to more people—people who frequent your restaurant and live in the area. Also, advertise in places your ideal candidate spends time. If you need someone to lift heavy boxes, consider putting up a flier in the local gym. If you’re looking for seasonal help, check out college bulletin boards. If you’re looking for someone who can work a flexible schedule, consider churches or community centers. The key is to let your perfect staff member know that you’re looking for them.
7. Send out newsletters
As you stay in contact with current customers and let them know about specials you’re having, also let them know that you’re growing your team. You never know when a good customer would love an opportunity to work for you. Don’t have a newsletter? No problem. You can communicate the same message on a note at the bottom of a receipt.
8. Create a fun video
A fun video stands out better than a job posting when you’re looking for employees, and it also gives you an opportunity to highlight your business. You can show what an average day is like, the culture of the kitchen and the serving staff. You can also introduce yourself and show how excited you would be for them to join your crew. And, be sure to post the video where people are likely to see it.
9. Use social media for more than posting a job ad on LinkedIn
We all know how great LinkedIn is for posting jobs and seeking out candidates. But for a wider range of people who might be interested in working for you, consider all the platforms. Actively look at profiles to see who is an energetic barkeep or outgoing hostess. Join groups and communities and engage with people’s posts. Get to know them and let them get to know you. That way, when you have that special opening, you can reach out and ask them to apply—or to refer someone else they think might be a good match.
10. Keep in mind diverse candidates
You can find great candidates in all places—and from all backgrounds in life. As you look for new candidate pools, keep diverse populations in mind. These individuals may gather at community centers or events you haven’t previously visited, so be open to exploring where those places might be in your area. And, as you interview these individuals, keep in mind that they may not have the exact experience you’re looking for. Instead, be mindful of their qualities and their eagerness to learn. You can teach them the skills they need.
When looking for new employees, it’s important not to limit your search radius to the places you’ve always looked. Just posting a vacancy on a job board no longer works. Embrace creativity, and explore the paths less traveled. You might be surprised by your results.
Looking for more ways to level up your hiring strategy? Get in touch with one of our Hiring Specialists.
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