If you’re having trouble finding great people to work in your restaurant, you’re not alone.

There’s a labor shortage impacting the restaurant industry, made tougher by the pandemic. But there is no shortage of jobs: there are more than 9 million open jobs in the United States. Early on in 2020, we were scrambling to figure out ways to get food to customers and how to give staff enough hours and keep them on the payroll. Now as we enter a recovery stage, the biggest challenge that’s emerged has become finding enough staff to fit the demand. According to restaurant industry data, scheduled shifts are recovering at a slower rate than sales.

Many feel it’s too soon to come back: according to a survey by Poached, 24% of surveyed restaurant workers said that uncertainty about restrictions on indoor dining was preventing them from coming back. 26% cited concerns of getting themselves or loved ones sick—despite vaccination. There is a bright side—of all respondents, close to 75% are either actively applying or searching for work.

Here are seven best practices to make sure that you can find great workers and give them a reason to stick with you—shortage or not.

1. Determine what roles you actually need to fill

Restaurant employees looking at tabletThe past year has turned servers into expert delivery packers, challenged chefs’ creativity, and flipped the role of a restaurant manager on its head. The traditional front of the house to the back of the house divide has closed. Restaurants are employing more delivery drivers than ever. Do some planning and get a clear picture of exactly what you need to hire for. It may not just be as simple as a server or line cook anymore. This will also help as you begin to write your job description—the foundation of making a great hire.

2. Write a great job description

Online job postings are often overlooked in the hospitality industry. Lack of clear info, wide ranges of pay, and an absence of any sort of “sell” are pervasive.

“When you’re writing a job ad, you have to realize that it is marketing. Write it in a way that’s attractive and bouncy and gets people’s attention. When people think about marketing, they think about attracting customers. When they put up a job ad, they don’t think about it that way,” says Jack Hott, Senior Product Manager at Poached, a job board built for the restaurant industry.

Look to what sets your restaurant employee experience apart, and highlight it. Here are some qualities that may be your differentiator.

  • Competitive wages compared to others in your area
  • Benefits like health insurance, pet insurance, or retirement plans
  • Paid vacation and sick days
  • Low employee turnover rate
  • Opportunities to learn and advance careers

Another factor to represent is your restaurant’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion: highlight the efforts you’re making to make a happier and healthier workplace for everybody.

3. Look in the right places

You have a job description that you’re proud of—but where to post it? You may be inclined to post it in as many places as possible, but that may yield you dozens of unqualified applications. However, this doesn’t mean all is lost when it comes to job boards. There are many great job boards built for the restaurant industry. Many have databases of qualified resumes, and some even help connect you with great candidates. Here are a few to consider:

One of the best places to find qualified candidates is to ask your existing team. Many restaurant workers have friends in the industry that they can refer to you. Set up a referral program for your existing employees and offer an incentive such as a cash bonus.

4. Look for the right fit

Couple at restaurant dining table with note padWith the average cost of hiring just under $6,000—not to mention workload costs—you don’t want to be in the same position 90 days from now, looking again. The best way to do this is by using a hiring process that prioritizes fit over skill.

When deciding who you want to hire, look for qualities and personality traits, rather than existing skills that can easily be taught. Think about how they’ll fit in with the existing team, or how they will make it better. It’s important to have an understanding of your restaurant’s core values in this step. Come up with interview questions that are designed to get insights into the qualities you deem important. Just keep this mantra in mind: prioritize fit, and train for skill. The last thing you want is someone with a ton of experience that no one wants to work with.

5. Ask Great Interview Questions

When it comes time to interview candidates, make sure your questions reflect your values as a restaurateur. Don’t ask someone if they’re hard-working—have them demonstrate it through answers to your questions. Questions should leave room for explanation and storytelling—not be simple yes or no answers.

6. Ace Onboarding and Training

You’ve got the right person who ticks all of your boxes—hard-working, empathetic, and self-aware. But their skillset needs a little work. That’s what training is for. Once your new hire has agreed to a role, the onboarding process begins. An employee isn’t going to find success being thrown into the fire.

7. Use the Best Hiring Tools

The old way of posting help wanted signs and putting your post on as many job boards as possible isn’t the best way. Make sure you have the right tools in place for hiring. Two tools you’ll want to have at your disposal are easy job posting and an applicant tracking system.

Rather than tracking multiple job boards and email addresses, direct all applicants to one place. Even if you do post it out on multiple sites + social, having one place to apply will help you keep track of applicants. Once you have applicants, a simple applicant tracking system can help keep everyone organized in one place. While you could use a spreadsheet to manually track, the chance that your next star team member will get lost in the shuffle is much higher.

Whether you’re hiring for multiple positions across multiple locations or just one role— a good applicant tracking system helps keep everything organized in one place. Once they’re on board, you can easily integrate new hires to get them on the schedule fast.


D.J. Constantino - 7shifts resident Content Writer

D.J. Costantino