6 ways to set your restaurant apart to attract great employees

Published May 28, 2021

How operators can attract the best talent to staff their restaurant


Things are continuing to look up for the hospitality industry now that we can see the end of the pandemic just over the horizon. Keeping your restaurant going throughout COVID-19 has been no small feat and you’ve earned a well-deserved congratulations to be amongst the group of fortunate businesses that survived. So, take a moment to take this in and affirm your awesomeness by acknowledging everything you’ve accomplished over the last year. You did it!

Now, the key to maintaining this momentum is ensuring you have the right talent in place to continue delivering quality service. But if you’re like most restaurant operators, some of the staff you employed prior to COVID-19 are no longer available to work in your restaurant.

Millions of former restaurant employees cite their fear of getting sick as the primary reason for not returning to work, while others say they’re receiving more money with the increased unemployment benefits. Another segment of workers are now employed in completely different industries and no longer want to work nights or weekends, as typically required in hospitality. Whatever the underlying reasons, restaurant operators across the county are facing a similar challenge—recruiting and retaining staff.

As many states are loosening COVID-19 restrictions and consumers are becoming more comfortable dining onsite again, it’s likely your restaurant will see increased traffic and sales in the coming months. While no smart business owner will ever complain about additional revenue, the increased volume potentially creates another stress test for your restaurant, especially if you’re already understaffed.

With the labor shortage being at an all-time high, how do you attract qualified talent and as equally important, how do you retain them?

Here are six recommendations to consider adding to your recruiting strategy:

Emphasize employee safety
We know that former restaurant workers are reluctant to return to work because of safety concerns. And, just like customers want to be safe when they dine out, your staff has the same legitimate concerns about safety. Make sure you emphasize on your website careers page all the safety precautions you’re taking to protect your staff to help attract the best candidates. And get specific about those safety protocols, such as providing personal protection equipment, daily health checks, and paid sick time, if applicable, for peace of mind and confidence that they’ll be safe working in your restaurant.

Offer creative incentives
The scarcity of resources for an abundance of job openings is driving restaurant operators to offer a vast array of incentives ranging from immediate pay, increased hourly wages, free college tuition or a raise after a 90-day performance review. It’s very common for restaurants to offer signing bonuses of $200 to $2,000, depending on the position, which makes it even more challenging to compete in this environment. While smaller restaurants may not be able to contend with these costly incentives, you can extend other attractive offers, such as mentorship for candidates who want to learn all aspects of running a restaurant and opportunities for career advancement into roles with increased responsibility.

Make it easy to apply
This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s important for you to take a look at your company’s website and mobile app to ensure it’s user-friendly and easy for candidates to apply online. Candidates gravitate to restaurants offering online applications because it’s convenient for them to apply anytime, anywhere. Bear in mind that you’re competing for the same talent pool as large franchises that have mastered simplifying their application process. Overlooking your online application process, or not having one at all, puts you at a distinct disadvantage for attracting the best talent.

Be prepared to move fast
Competition for qualified candidates is fierce, which means you must be prepared to engage with applicants quickly before other offers lure them away. Consider creating a text message business card to give to applicants, which expedites your recruiting efforts. Texts have a 99 percent open rate and it’s the preferred communication type for millennials and Gen Z, who are most likely to work in hospitality. Texting enables you to interact immediately with candidates to pre-screen their qualifications and schedule interviews.

Related: Tips to help restaurants strengthen operational adjustments they made during the pandemic

Promote your restaurant’s culture on social media
If you’re relying solely on traditional help wanted signs and ads, you’re missing out on a myriad of social media benefits. You don’t need a big budget to invest in social media posts, but you can certainly get creative with attracting more applicants. Showcase on all your social media channels what it’s like to work at your location. Post photos online of your team having fun and serving customers. Include videos of testimonials from team members sharing all the great things they enjoy about working at your restaurant, such as flexible schedules, great pay, employee discounts, supportive teammates, and more. If you have social media savvy colleagues on your team, they just might jump at the chance to work on a fun project of keeping your social media pages updated.

Referrals are the golden ticket
Your best employees are a gold mine for identifying qualified candidates. If they enjoy working at your restaurant, they’ll happily recommend friends who are hard workers that will be a good fit for your culture. Rewarding your staff with incentives provides a little extra motivation for them to submit referrals. There are countless free or inexpensive ideas for getting your staff involved with recruiting, such as bonuses, company swag, time off, gift cards, a reserved parking space, or even giving them their preferred schedule for a month.

Use these to attract the best talent


Adopting some of these strategies, in combination with a little creativity, can help improve your recruiting efforts, even if you’re working with limited financial resources. As you’re focused on hiring new staff, keep in mind that the best advertisement is a well-performing team, so make sure you’re keeping your current employees happy as well.

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