How to Create a Restaurant Employee Referral Program That Hires for You

By: Spencer Rule

6 Minute Read

May 18, 2018

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Who doesn’t want more of a good thing? 

Restaurant employee referral programs, for one thing, can save your restaurant a lot of money on recruiting costs by helping you find the right employees faster. As an added bonus, new hires sourced via referral programs produce 25% more profit for their companies than new hires sourced via other means.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, there were 5.3 million hourly workers. That’s a really big labor pool; why does it feel so small when searching for new employees? It’s because most employers in need of hourly employees are looking for them in all the wrong places.

Building a referral program is unquestionably one of the best ways to find employees for your restaurant; it’s one of the best proven strategies to help restaurants find employees online and offline.

Here are three ways to take your restaurant employee referral program to the next level in order to finally find the awesome employees you’ve been looking for.

1. Kick Your Rewards Up a Notch

Study after study show that the best first step to take in the hiring process is to ask your current employees if they know of anyone that would be a good fit for your business.

Many companies offer an employee referral bonus; this is a great way to source a large number of high-quality potential team members.

First off, if you’re not already offering any kind of reward for employee referrals, start a program right now.

When it comes to rewards, cash is king, but don’t be afraid to get creative. If you’re in need of ideas, think about your staff and what sorts of rewards would truly motivate them.

Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Giving them the weekend off
  • Extra vacation days
  • Free meals (seriously, who doesn’t love free food?!)
  • Shift preferences - There are always those coveted shifts, Let them have their favorite for a week or a month.
  • Gift cards. - Amazon, nuf said.
  • Entrance to win a raffle or drawing of a large item
  • The latest tech - Think iPads, tablets, GoPro’s, or other trendy devices.
  • Tickets - Give away two seats to a big sporting event, concert, comedy show, the movies, etc.
  • A free, full-course meal for them and a friend

Employees are happier when they are working with people they want to work with.

Your current team members have a vested interest in bringing in people who will make the workload lighter, not heavier; they’ll also be more likely to introduce candidates that fit your culture and help the time at work go by faster.

2. Go Beyond Your Employee Network

Your employee referrals are most likely to be stellar, but why limit your referral program to just your own employees? Tap into all the networks and opportunities you can by extending referral bonuses and rewards to everybody. And I mean everybody.

When companies tap into their networks, it’s common to see up to 41% of their referrals come from outside their company.

Tell everyone about your referral reward program. Tell your customers - they’ll broadcast it to their network. Tell your employees to tell their friends, and their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends. Announce it on your social media channels and post it on your website.

You’ll be amazed at the reach your program will get. The more impressive the reward, the more likely you are to receive a consistently high volume of referrals.

Remember: You don’t have to hire all the referrals. Work with your restaurant’s legal team to have program terms in place that clearly outline the stipulations for a referral payout, like these. For example, the referred employee must work at your restaurant for 90 days before the reward is cashed in.

3. Give Your Employee Referral Program a Technology Boost

It’s one thing to ask your employees to participate in a referral program; it’s another altogether to provide them with tools that make winning that prize even easier.

Enter, technology.

Don’t be dumb and forgo leveraging those smart devices. It turns out those same phones your employees are glued to can actually help your referral programs.

Here are a few ways you can leverage tech and mobile devices more effectively for your employee referral program:

  • Social media - Each time a new position opens, ask your employees to share information about the role with their friends on social media. This is a simple and effective way to reach your employees’ trusted contacts and hire quality candidates. When a new position opens up, send a company-wide email out including details about the role, links where a prospective employee can learn more, and a short snippet of text employees can easily post to any of their social media accounts.

  • Email - Everyone uses email. Young or old, it’s a great way to reach candidates of any age. recommends you send a regular company-wide email that includes important positions you are trying to fill with a short snippet of text explaining what you’re looking for. Employees should be encouraged to share to their social accounts. Consistently sending these emails will help keep your staff in sync with your recruiting efforts and up-to-date on what positions are open or have been filled. Remember: Email forwarding was the original Facebook share.

  • Employee Referral Software - Today there are a number of dedicated employee referral software solutions your restaurant can use to fuel your program. One-third of companies planning to implement employee referral programs will use third-party software systems to manage their programs. Maintaining an employee referral program can become chaotic without easy automation; look for an employee referral program system that allows for automated or semi-automated processes.

  • The Manager Log - Within your restaurant's POS system, there's a nifty feature known as The Manager's Log. In the daily log, managers typically record the goings-on during their shift and leave memos for other staff members to read. Use your manager's log to get the word out to staff about your employee referral program, and track who on staff has recommended someone.
restaurant manager log book

It’s important to make your employee referral program as easy and simple as possible for your staff and your extended network.

Perhaps you invest in a dedicated tool dedicated to managing your employee referral program. Maybe you set up a free Google Voice number dedicated to referrals and ask that anyone making a referral text the candidate’s name, their name, and a way to contact the person.

Either way: Don’t overcomplicate it. 

Happy Hiring

You simply can’t beat employee referrals when you need to hire new staff. Someone you trust trusts them; that means a lot.

You’re also avoiding having to pay for ads or recruiters, so creating an employee referral program is a very cost-effective option.

The best hourly employees are typically working somewhere else, and don’t know a great employment opportunity is waiting for them at your business. Get the word out and those referrals will start pourin' in!

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