Essential resources to help you find, hire and retain employees
Just when restaurants are beginning to see an influx of indoor dining, a labor shortage strikes. Timing couldn’t be worse.
Let’s look at the employment numbers, though. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, “the unemployment rate edged down to 6.0 percent in March. The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4.0 million higher than in February 2020.”
The 9.7 million unemployed persons has not translated to hiring opportunities as the restaurant industry is experiencing a labor shortage. Whether it’s safety concerns, wages, a competing gig economy or other circumstances, the fact remains that restaurants are struggling to find workers.
There are a number of strategies and tactics that you can deploy to position your restaurant to keep fully-staffed. Let’s examine ways to survive a worker shortage. We are presenting strategies, advice and tips with links to feature articles, educational sessions and podcast episodes to give you a deep dive into hiring. The more you know, the more measures you can implement to have a strong workforce.
Let’s start by listening to a straightforward conversation on the labor shortage impacting pizzerias with Caliente Pizza & Draft House Founder Nick Bogacz, Editor In Chief Jeremy White and Executive Editor Denise Greer on The Hot Slice Podcast.
Retention should be a primary focus
One of the best strategies to combat a worker shortage is to hone in on your retention efforts. Keeping your team members will be paramount. Retain your employees with pay increases, incentives, a thriving team culture, and a safe and welcoming workplace.
Listen to a powerful Pizza Expo 365 educational session on employee retention. Ann Farrell of Farrelli’s Wood-Fire Pizza in Tacoma, Washington, will show you how she connects with employees daily to ensure she gets the most out of her staff. Log into Pizza Expo 365 and click the On Demand Library in the Education menu to listen to “Connecting with Employees with Ann Farrell.” (Not in the 365 community? Registration is free.)
Unfortunately, turnover is inevitable. As you read this, there’s a good chance that you, too, are in search of employees to fill your roster. Let’s look at some actionable ways to recruit new hires.
A hard look at your hiring strategy
First and foremost, evaluate your hiring process and view it from a potential hire’s position. Why would YOU want to work at your restaurant? What type of experience are you offering? People are looking for more than a paycheck. To compete for top talent, you must take the time upfront to analyze your employee structure, culture and benefits and lay out a clear plan for attracting talent. In Hiring Top Talent, consultant Roberta Chinsky Matuson asks, “Are you selling the right thing? You’re probably selling prospects on the fact that this is a job. Period. But that’s not what most people are looking for. They want an experience. Employees want to feel a connection to their employer, and more importantly, to their co-workers.”
Meet potential hires where they are
We keep hearing that for every 10 interviews scheduled, only one or two applicants are showing up. So, let’s speed up the process and meet the applicant where they are — online, whether that’s an Instagram video chat or texting them a link to a Zoom meeting. In The Current Job Market and Hiring Process, freelance writer Nora Caley explored the concept. “Video meetings enable Dewey’s Pizza to connect with an applicant sooner than in-person, and allow management to experience the candidate’s tone of voice, body language and eye contact. The next round of interviews takes place at one of the restaurants. ‘There are less people in the building but there is always a manager and a team member,’ says Joe Schlotman, director of organizational development. By having a team member participate in the assessment, the worker plays a role in hiring a coworker, and feels accountable during training.”
Tighten your messaging
You can’t just stick a “Help Wanted” sign in the window anymore. Every restaurant is vying for new hires. What will make you stick out uniquely in the community you serve? In Mike’s Monthly Tip, Mike Bausch suggests, “Make your interview process an exclusive call to action rather than a desperate cry for help. Don’t write, ‘now hiring’ or ‘help wanted’ ever. Instead, ‘Now accepting applications’ or ‘We’re in need of more great people because we’re in demand.’ The application and interview process must convey this is a team environment that pushes everyone. An environment that authentically makes real food, if you are into that, we have the home for you. Also, follow up on the promise.”
Tap all of your channels
In the midst of a shrinking labor pool, it’s important to use all of your resources to recruit talent. In The Current Job Market and Hiring, Caley discovered, “To find talent, Pizza Guys has turned to Facebook, Instagram, Nextdoor and Indeed. The brand also posts hiring messages on its digital menus and on its website. ‘In the past, we barely posted hiring ads on social media,’ Bui says. ‘Now, they are one of the main sources we use to let candidates know we are hiring.’ There are also box toppers, and current team members can earn bonuses for referring friends and family.”
You have a number of resources at your disposal, from community and youth organizations you support to daily interactions with the public.
Reach out to your loyalty club with a push notification or a special email promotion. They love your brand and may refer a dynamite potential employee. Don’t forget to reward them if you hire and keep their referral.
Look outside your hiring niche
If your operation is in jeopardy of maintaining function due to an employee shortage, it’s time to look outside of your conventional methods. Have you considered targeting the following demographics?
- Second-chance hires. In Second Chances, Freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor found, ‘MOD Pizza in Seattle has a less formalized approach to hiring those who need a second chance, including the formerly incarcerated (another way to say this without worrying about PC is to say, including hiring those with a criminal record). As we were building the business, a couple of our team members hired people who fell into that category” needing another chance,’ says MOD Pizza co-founder and CEO Scott Svenson. ‘They took a chance with them and as it transpired, (the employees) ended up becoming really positive role models and impactful team members.’”
- Baby Boomers are working into retirement like no generation before them. They bring great skills and reliability to the workplace. Find out how they can enhance your workplace in Five Benefits to Reap from Older Workers.
- Teens. In recent years, many restaurants have steered away from targeting teens. But teens typically come with a blank slate and little employment history. In The Young & The Workplace, freelancer Pamela Mills-Sens dives into hiring teens. “With little or no work experience, hiring teens can present a bit of a puzzle. Carmelo LaMotta, owner of LaMotta’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, asks applicants to bring in their report cards, inquires about their activities — he likes to see if they play sports, cheerlead, or are involved in drama etc., since these kids tend to be more outgoing. He also checks their Facebook page because if he does hire them, they need to “reflect well on his business.”
Consult the Experts
Check out this Pizza Expo 365 educational session that breaks down how to develop a team of top performers with restaurant consultant T.J. Schiers. Finding great people who do outstanding work is a huge challenge. This session focuses on the keys to building a team of top performers who stick around and help attract other top talent. Learn from T.J. Schier — a restaurant consultant who also operates more than a dozen Which Wich Superior Sandwich shops — about effective recruiting and hiring tactics, robust training for today’s employees, incentive programs to drive the top and bottom line, and methods for slowing turnover. Log into Pizza Expo 365 and click the On Demand Library in the Education menu to listen to “Developing a Team of Top Performers.” (Not in the 365 community, registration is free.)
Above all, GET CREATIVE!
The major restaurant brands are offering things like $50 for an interview, food incentives and more just to get applicants in the door.
Here are a few ways pizzerias have gotten creative with recruiting:
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For a more in-depth look at hiring, read the following articles:
Current Job Market and Hiring Process
The pandemic changed the way operators attract and hire employees
Mike’s Monthly Tip: The Few and the Proud Employees
Learn some best practices for finding, developing and promoting your star employees
Hiring Top Talent
Here’s how you can grab your slice of the talent pool
Hiring: Second Chances
Those with less-than-ideal resumes can still bring much to the table
Five Benefits to Reap from Older Workers
The Baby Boomer Workforce