Patrons in a restaurant.

Finding workers for restaurants and small businesses of all sorts has been very competitive in 2021.


Last year, there weren’t enough customers at restaurants. This year, there aren’t enough employees.

The pressure to hire more employees is being felt throughout the hospitality industry as pandemic restrictions loosen and diners return to restaurants of all types. That’s good news, of course, but it’s going to be a challenge for restaurant owners to meet the demand if there’s not enough staff.

The wider economic picture makes it even worse because, on some level, restaurants have to compete for employees with all sorts of small and not-so-small businesses. Lots of retailers – most notably Amazon and Target – are hiring aggressively with starting pay at $15-$17 an hour. The Domino’s pizza chain is offering some delivery drivers $1,000 as a sign on bonus plus $25 an hour.

All that means restaurant owners will need to be creative in how they hire. Here are some tips for what you can offer in your recruiting efforts to lure new hires who will (hopefully) be motivated by more than an attractive starting salary:

Play up your company culture
What’s it like to work at your restaurant? Is it a small staff where everyone supports one another? Do you have people who have worked there for several years and still enjoy the challenge? Do your employees feel like a small-business family or do they feel like cogs in a big-box retail machine? No one wants to feel like a number, especially anyone who’s young and energetic. Let recruits know that they’ll be part of something special that they can’t find anywhere else. Don’t sugarcoat the job’s responsibilities but do play up the various ways your team has fun while collaborating and supporting one another during busy shifts.

Offer them a career, not just a job
How many people work at Target and think ‘I think I’ll open my own Target store one day.’ Not many. On the other hand, how many people work at a restaurant and think ‘I’d like to open my own restaurant one day.’ Lots of people. That’s what you can offer: a start to a career for a budding chef or restauranteur. Tell them they can learn about the business and maybe become their own boss one day. Anyone can stack merchandise on shelves, right? Working in the restaurant business offers so much more. You learn to deal with customers face0-to-face. You learn about sales. You learn about promotions. And, you learn all about kitchen operations and efficiencies. When you move into management, there’s lots more to learn about inventories, vendor management and labor management. Working in a restaurant can be a small step in a much larger career.

Provide some non-monetary benefits
Are there other things you can offer besides money? Is the schedule flexible? Can the employee receive a meal before or after their shift? Are there profit sharing plans or bonuses for meeting certain sales targets? (Okay, those count as money). The point is to be creative and offer something that the corporate big-box stores can’t or won’t offer. One idea: start a mentor/mentee program where you pair up the recruit with an experienced staffer who can train them and answer any questions they might have about the job, the industry, customers, recipes or anything else.

Show them a side-by-side comparison of jobs
The recruit may be weighing options at several other businesses. If you want to convince someone to accept an offer from you, one way to do that is to create a side by side comparison of a job at your establishment versus working in, say, a warehouse. You can talk about the money (hopefully it’s somewhat close) and then point out all the reasons why the job at your restaurant will be better in the long run. You can point out the valuable skills they’ll learn, the fun social aspects, the flexible schedule, the great company culture and, of course, the start to a wonderful career.

Did you know? A point of sale system can help improve labor management in your restaurant. Contact us today to learn more and to receive a free demo.

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