Would that it were that easy. These words assume there is a rich pool of capable, willing, hard-working, affordable — never mind experienced — people to hire for front-of-house and back-of-house positions. Alas, in the labour-intensive foodservice and hospitality industry, this is definitely not always the case.
According to Restaurant Canada’s Q3 2019 Outlook Survey Report, labour issues remain the top challenge for operators. “Eight in 10 respondents said high labour costs were having a negative impact on their business, and 59% reported labour shortages.”
While many operators are looking to scale back, automate, or even eliminate the need for employees (think ghost kitchens, conversion to delivery-only and takeout), other operators are still facing the hiring challenge.
“Employers are expressing frustration with finding candidates, getting them to show up at all or on time for interviews and to show up on time for the first day,” says Jeff Dover, principal of foodservice and hospitality consultants fsSTRATEGY Inc. “Some new hires work for a week and then don’t show up as there are so many job opportunities. Therefore, employers must find ways to engage candidates from the get go.”
Hiring innovation is key
Savvy operators are turning to more innovative ways to find and retain talent. Gone are the days of the paper résumé and laborious interview process, often replaced by short candidate videos and online content through social media so an employer can get an impression within two minutes of whether or not a candidate is worth an interview, says Dover. While the industry may never completely get away from an interview protocol where employers check out a candidate’s deportment, verbal and non-verbal communications skills, “attitude,” and appearance, there are signs that the hiring process itself is changing.
“Conducting group interviews is an efficient way to meet with, and evaluate candidates.”David Hopkins, The Fifteen Group President and Restaurant Consultant
Think speed dating
Many hospitality employers are going the route of hiring parties — networking opportunities for the industry. With these speed dating events, prospective employers stage their version of a culinary cattle call to attract not just good staffers but a larger pool of prospective employees.
“Conducting group interviews is an efficient way to meet with, and evaluate candidates. It allows you to experience how applicants interact with others and conduct themselves in a group setting, without the pressure of a one-on-one interview,” says The Fifteen Group president and restaurant consultant David Hopkins. “One of our clients is currently hosting interviews in this manner, in order to effectively gauge social skills and teamwork in their potential employees.”
Use social media
“If you have multiple positions to fill, consider hosting a career fair,” adds Hopkins. “The event can be communicated in a media advisory, or on a job board or Facebook. Hosting a career fair effectively circulates the information of opportunities available, and will allow your team to meet and interview a large swath of people at one time.”
Facebook remains a more viable business tool for reaching a wider audience than a job board alone. Instagram has also become a popular and visual (think colourful graphics) way to recruit, especially younger applicants, for job openings.
Digital banner ads, posted on a variety of websites and online publications, can also effectively spread awareness of job openings.“This method will allow you to target those who may not be actively looking for a job or following job boards,” says Hopkins.
Make tech your friend
Consider using freelance staffing apps. According to Hopkins, one of the top-rated options is Staffy.“They provide any number of staff on a freelance basis, for special events or even just certain occasions when you are in need of extra hands.” This option may be a cost-effective way of staffing up when the need arises.
One company (not a restaurant) resorted to a novel idea. Exceldor, the poultry processing co-op that owns the right to Butterball chicken in Canada, needed to hire staff quickly for factory positions. They set up a remote video system at a Montreal bus stop last fall. All potential candidates had to do was pick up a phone attached and with a written message above it that read: “We hire live. Pick up.” Quick interviews were held on the spot and the positions filled.
Consider friends with benefits
Recently McDonald’s Canada, working with ad agency Cossette, launched an innovative campaign, called Friends Wanted, where interested friends were encouraged to apply together, get hired together, and work together. This approach is especially appealing to younger foodservice workers for whom yours may be their first job. Not only do you hire for open positions, but you attract future potential employees at the same time.
Hosting “friend parties” is not just for larger operations like McDonald’s. This is a strategy with legs for any size eatery.
Cast a wider net
Always looking only at a younger demographic to fill positions? There’s a wider world of potential employees to consider. Many retirees, still vital, not as focused on money, and willing to work flexible hours, make loyal additions. Plus, says Jeff Dover, “hiring persons with disabilities is becoming more prevalent and important to businesses.”
However you approach your hiring needs, flexibility is the name of the game — not only in whom you hire but just as important, in how you hire.