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Are you looking to fill a few spots in your restaurant? More than a few? You’re not alone.
Maybe you’ve noticed that lately, you’ve had to dedicate a ton of time and mental energy to searching for new staff members, training them, and doing whatever you can to keep them on your team for as long as possible.
You might have also heard the staggering stat that replacing an hourly employee can cost almost $6000 — and much more for a manager — in lost productivity and time spent finding, screening, interviewing and training candidates.
If you feel that you’re stuck in the hiring, training, and replacing cycle, it might be time to make some changes in how you source candidates. The more effort you put into revamping your recruiting strategy, the less you’ll need to use it, meaning you’ll attract better candidates, and keep them around for longer.
Beef Up Your Job Descriptions
Let’s start from the beginning. Are your job postings exciting and detailed?
Because there’s so many restaurants and not enough restaurant staff in this industry right now, a skilled cook or server can be extremely picky about where they apply. If a job posting isn’t thorough and engaging, they won’t give it a second glance.
If they’re too simple — “line cook needed, 1-2 yrs experience, great team player, email [email protected]” — you’re missing a big opportunity to show off why your restaurant is a uniquely great place to work.
How do you make sure your job descriptions stand out from the pack? Treat them like they're part of your restaurant marketing strategy. After all, job postings are effectively mini ads for your restaurant.
Put a little more time into your job descriptions, and add detail about your restaurant, the role, the team, and compensation. A great job description that includes your team’s values will ensure you attract candidates whose values align with yours, and who are more likely to gel with your team and stick around.
Here’s a better example of a job posting — fill in the details for your restaurant.
“Full-Time Line Cook Needed at Family-Owned [Restaurant Name].
Open since 2014, [Restaurant Name] serves [type of cuisine], and is well-known in our community for our great [signature dish] and our friendly service. We have a close-knit back of house team made up of five line cooks, two prep cooks, three dishwashers, a sous-chef, and an executive chef. Our team values open communication, excellent food, and creating a safe work environment for all.
We’re looking to add a line cook for Wednesday-Saturday, a mix of lunch and dinner shifts. You’ll almost always have Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off.
We’re looking for someone friendly, passionate, and team-oriented. If you have 2 years of experience, that’s ideal, but we’re willing to train a candidate with less experience.
You’ll shadow a fellow cook for the first two weeks after coming in for a paid orientation shift. Once you’re fully trained, you’ll be responsible for the [station type] station — keeping it clean and stocked, and cooking all the [types of dishes] that are ordered.
We pay $15/hour to start, and you’ll be up for a pay increase after 6 months. We offer a gym membership stipend to all employees, and we provide skills training every three months to help you grow in your career.
If you’re interested, please email [[email protected]], introduce yourself, and attach your resume.”
Update Your Website
An outdated website can send the message that your restaurant isn’t keeping up with the times. Need some inspiration? Check out these examples.
But beyond aesthetics, your website is a crucial tool for your recruiting efforts. If your website doesn’t have a Jobs page yet, add one. If it does, make sure you’re updating it frequently: As soon as you fill a role, take down the job posting, and as soon as you’re looking for a new team member, post the job to your website’s Jobs page.
If you also have a page where you highlight your team and your company values, that’s even better. Showing off your core values on your website helps to attract candidates that’ll align with the rest of your team, and your management style.
Referrals, Referrals, Referrals
Your staff are the best people to find other cooks, servers, and managers who’ll fit in on your restaurant team.
Set up a referral program where your staff members can refer old coworkers or friends to fill an open position on your team. If the candidate your staff member refers is hired, your staff member gets a reward, either in the form of cash, a gift card, the ability to choose a random shift to have off, or any other incentive of your choice.
You can easily set up a referral program with a Google Form to keep track of all your submissions in one place.
Designate a Hiring Team
Speaking of getting your employees to help, set up a hiring team for each role. For each open position, assign a manager to lead the charge and a peer interviewer to help. That way, the responsibilities throughout the hiring process are shared — from sourcing to signing a contract — and you’ll get two perspectives on each candidate.
A peer interview is a really good way to evaluate the skills and the team fit for every staff member — after all, a server is the best person to judge whether or not a candidate would make a good server.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
There are two important ways that social media can help you in the recruiting process.
Screen candidates on social media. If they have public profiles on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, see how they choose to represent themselves. If they post anything that doesn’t align with your team values, don’t bother proceeding with an interview.
Post job postings on your restaurant’s social media channels (as well as Indeed, Craigslist, Poached, and other restaurant industry job sites). You already have an interested audience on your social media channels — show them how great it is to work at your restaurant, and then post your open positions.
Look for Passive Candidates
Chances are you go out to eat every once in awhile. If you experience outstanding service at a restaurant, tell your server that you’re looking to hire great servers like them at your restaurant.
Recruiter and former restaurant server Emily Scichilone says that looking for passive candidates isn’t often done in restaurants, but is common in most other industries. A passive candidate is someone who isn’t currently looking for a job, but could be swayed with an offer.
“Even if [someone’s] not necessarily looking, people are always looking if you can entice them with a better offer. Say you go out to eat and you have a really good server. Let them know that you work at a restaurant and you’re hiring,” said Scichilone. “I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I mean, the worst they're going to say is no. And then you just keep eating your spaghetti.”
Schedule Phone Interviews
Especially with the frustrating trend of no-call, no-shows for job interviews, it’s a good idea to screen candidates with a phone interview. Instead of blocking off an hour to welcome, interview, and show around a prospective candidate, dedicate enough time for a 15-minute phone call instead.
Granted, not everyone is great on the phone, so take that into consideration. Still, it can be a great way to get a feel for a candidate in a short amount of time. During a phone call, you can gauge a candidate’s personality, and how keen they are on the job — if they seem unenthused by the job or by your company’s mission and culture, it’s not a good fit. If it feels like they could be good on your team, schedule an in-person interview with a peer interviewer or a manager.
Adding the phone interview step is also a great way to see how reliable a candidate is. If they don’t pick up the phone (within a reasonable time frame, or don’t call you back right away if they do miss your call), then you know they might not be a good fit long-term.
Go to Networking Events, or Host One
After searching for five months, Ciro Fodera, chef de cuisine at Capo South Boston, found his new sous chef at a networking event for cooks.
Culinary schools host events like these, as do restaurant organizations, and even restaurants themselves. In fact, hosting a networking event for all types of staff at your restaurant is a great way to meet potential candidates. Invite a notable member of the industry to speak, or just make it a simple wine and cheese networking mixer.
Use Photos and Video
Use photos and video in your job postings and on your Team and Jobs website pages in order to stand out from the crowd. Check out these videos from SuViche hospitality group in Miami, FL, and this one from Union Social Eatery in North York, ON, Canada, for inspiration.
Benefits and Competitive Pay
This seems like a no-brainer, but provide benefits and competitive pay. Even if you can’t afford healthcare for your staff, try to provide other incentives, like a stipend for a gym membership or public transportation. These benefits set you apart from all the other hiring restaurants, and more importantly, it shows your staff you care about their lives outside of work.
If you’ve got some spots on staff to fill, don’t despair. Show off your values, your team, and your expectations for each role, and you’ll attract individuals who can to rise to the occasion.